Review by James Lindorf
Random Media’s LGBTQ coming-of-age drama The Experience marks the feature film debut for Writer and Director Katerina Gorshkov. Scarlet (Allison Kove) is a teenage girl whose behavior lands her in a ‘tough love’ wilderness program for the wayward children of the upper class. Every day she and her fellow delinquents must trudge a hilly backcountry hauling a 40-pound backpack. After months of little effort and no growth, the counselors are running out of ways to try and reach Scarlet, but everything changes when the mysterious Dylan joins her group. Could love found in the most unexpected place save the life of two young women? The Experience stars Allison Kove (Rotten), Ava Capri (Little Rituals) Shawn Christian (Days of Our Lives), Lou Ferrigno Jr. (S.W.A.T.), and Sabina Gadecki (Entourage), along with Brigitte Nielsen (Beverly Hills Cop II) and Gordon Thomson (Dynasty), and will be released in theaters and on-demand in November.
Throughout the film, there are occasional audio and visual effects that give it an air of amateurishness, and they persist until the final minutes when the reasoning behind them comes to light. While initially a distraction upon reflection, I now have greater respect for the work of Cinematographer Will Turner, who had to balance those quirks while creating a professional-looking film that features a dynamic color palette that separates Scarlet’s life at and away from the program.
When Gorshkov sat down to pen the screenplay for The Experience, it is clear that she had an abundance of ideas. There are central themes of grief and love. In addition to these all-encompassing emotions, she attempts to address our sense of self and our place in society. Not to be outdone by the many introspective elements, Gorshkov also manages to include some political beliefs about the idea of immoral corporations walking over the bodies of the little people. While all of the ideas are good ones, there are too many for a 95-minute run time, leaving many of the ideas unexplored while simultaneously bogging down the main story and its delightful performances by Kove and Capri.
Gorshkov, along with Kove and Capri, created many moments between Scarlet and Dylan that are touching and genuine. There was care taken to not overly sexualize or fetishize the teenagers and their relationship, which added to the authenticity of their connection. The writing for these interactions and the two leads’ chemistry are the heart and strength of The Experience. While an overcrowding of ideas undermined the film’s potential, The Experience is an admirable debut that could be a glimmer of a bright future for Gorshkov, Kove and Capri.