As a fan of film festivals I looked forward to attending Remedy, which just so happened to be opening the Cinekink Film Festival in New York City last month. While Remedy is still securing funding for a much wider release, I can assure you that after having seen the film it would be criminal for this small, independent, character study film not to be playing in art house theaters across the country. When you go in to watch a film with a BDSM theme and the most intense, captivating experience you’ll discover is trying to figure out what is going on in the dom’s head, not what’s happening in front of you, you have a film that has accomplished its goal—don’t focus on the sex, focus on the mind. Remedy does that very, very well.
Director Cheyenne Picardo tells her story about life as a professional dominatrix through the eyes of Remedy (Kira Davies), a young woman in New York City making ends meet but also curious about exploring what her own limits are. She finds that she’s capable of more than she thought, but is never quite comfortable in this world. That doesn’t deter her from running away from it. As one would expect, she finds a host of clients that range from a dental fetishist, to a rope enthusiast, to a smart allecky client who wants nothing more than to psychologically test her to see what her limits are (which she passes without realizing it).
Films about the New York BDSM scene are nothing new, but Remedy is a very unique look at how one stumbles into this world, going from a trainee dom to finding out (and not always liking) what she is actually able to handle. She bonds with the other girls on her shift, but her supervisor comes off as detached, cold, almost like another client she has to be able to handle like it or not. Her inexperience is evident when one of her clients, whom she develops a faux attraction to (faux because it’s only a comfort Remedy feels around him, not a true attraction) has to show her how to tie him up. Her first time on the job has her hysterically trying to fulfill her sub’s dental S&M fantasies which, as you can imagine, doesn’t go over well.
As Remedy becomes more comfortable on the job, she continues to meet a list of colorful clients, but also transitions to a switch (available as a dom or sub), a role she’s more comfortable in. This is where we see her vulnerabilities out in the open. The out of town businessman who introduces her to a really intense session he describes as forced rape gets Remedy very aroused and she discovers she enjoys humiliation.
The entire session is filmed in a very dimly lit room but is powerful nonetheless. He hangs her by the arms, spanks her, makes her dance topless, pinch his nipple, all after Remedy says she doesn’t do extreme humiliation to which he asks what does extreme humiliation mean to her? “Licking a dirty dog bowl,” she responds. It’s the film’s turning point, where Remedy says to her boss, “I definitely earned my stripes.” She comes away looking wounded by the experience, with her eyes looking as though she has the 10,000 mile stare hardened war veterans have after being in battle. She herself has been hardened and when an uncooperative sub comes along, she’s the one who takes all her anguish out on him, going too far in the fantasy.
Remedy with all its strengths does end in the same manner many indie films tend to nowadays: the ambiguous ending. Remedy didn’t need to fill every gap or have every question answered, but the way in which the film concludes just seems unsatisfying after we invest close to two hours of watching her develop from an inexperienced sex worker to jaded mistress. A bit of ambiguity is sufficient . . . hell it should end with people asking what happens next, but it’s a pretty weak ending to an otherwise fine directorial debut.
Despite its one major flaw, Remedy is a really brutally honest portrayal of these doms for hire, what they go through, what they say behind their clients’ backs, how they feel about them, the stories they tell, to how to prepare for a session. Picardo manages to make this part of the world interesting, even more interesting than the sessions, which were for the most part ad-libbed and captivating in their own right. It’s a really incredible achievement for a first time filmmaker. As a fan of indies, even if you’re thing isn’t BDSM, you won’t be able to stop watching. It’s a really captivating film.
Take a Drink: whenever Remedy is about to go to work and not sure what to expect from her latest client
Take a Drink: each time Remedy is humiliated on purpose or by accident on the job.
Do a Shot: when the doms gather around Mistress Nadine to hear her experience with a client who had the worse body odor, an abnormally sized testicle, and a spanking fetish who ends up in the hospital when Nadine accidentally spanks, not his buttocks but his “elephantitis-sized testicle.”