The Universe can definitely be unkind. But the laws of nature still stipulate that to each reaction there is an equal and opposite reaction. Newton was never homeless, though, and Doug Roland’s award winning film Feeling Through sets out to determine whether the science also applies to the deeds we bestow on each other.
New York City is the setting, and we learn immediately that Tareek is homeless. The young man is also in danger of exhausting the good will of all those who have previously provided a temporary roof. “Again?” is Corey’s reply text to Tareek’s request for a warm night.
Sadly, Tareek has rejection down to a science, and Steven Prescod’s performance empathetically carries the quiet, yet dignified despair of his character. So much so that the audience can easily see themselves being hit by his misfortune.
This especially if you’ve ever spent time in NYC and wondered how such a cramped space could still leave millions of people alone. Thus, the city has no qualms about thoughtlessly passing Tareek’s predicament by, and even when with his two best friends, emptiness dominates the landscape.
The haunting score (Daniel Ryan) only extends the lonely expanse. So it follows that Tareek has too much pride to reveal his disposition to his boys and another night in the cold is the price. The wayward youth is in no mood to share either when a fellow squatter asks for a quarter.
On the other hand, down and out doesn’t mean curiosity goes out the window. Tareek is perplexed as the beggar’s next appeal goes completely unnoticed by a man on the corner. Unable to ignore, Tareek approaches, and the man presents a sign. “I am deaf and blind. Tap me if you can help me cross the street.”
Unexpectedly, Tareek’s reaction doesn’t say misery loves company, and now he’s on the other side. In other words, he looks around in hopes that someone else will take on the problem that has landed squarely in his lap.
A moment that Roland experienced in real life. The filmmaker met Artemio on the street one night, and the chance encounter inspired the 19 minute short, which he wrote and directed. Roland didn’t sacrifice realism for the film either. Artie is portrayed by Robert Tarango, and he is the first blind and deaf actor to star in a film.
Tarango definitely made the best of the opportunity. The actors telling inflections convey dignity too. But it’s his determined independence and infectious optimism that are hard to resist. So Tareek almost has no choice. He must lend a hand, but the burden isn’t so heavy. Artie simply wants someone to escort him to the nearest bus stop.
No problem, Tareek delays the roof he has procured for the night and is ready to ride shotgun until Artie’s bus arrives. Endearingly, the power of Tarango’s performance can’t help reel Tareek in further, and the sense that the unlikely couple shares really does a number on the youngster’s ambivalence.
Artie writes on his notepad, and Tareek replies by touch. He spells the letters out in Artie’s palm, and the contact going up a notch by the moment, an intimacy develops that goes beyond words.
Nonetheless, Tareek is still indecisive about how far he wants to take his concern. “I got my own problems,” his sighs prevail throughout.
So will Tareek ‘complete his journey’ and put the more permanent problems of his new acquaintance before his own? Will any of us? And if we do, does the universe have any responsibility to reciprocate? Feeling Through provides as good an answer as any.