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|A Boy. A Girl. A Dream.
dir Qasim Basir
prd Datari Turner
scr Qasim Basir, Samantha Tanner
with Omari Hardwick, Meagan Good, Jay Ellis, Dijon Talton, Brytni Sarpy, Dave Brown, Jason Dohring, Fernando Martinez, Kris D Lofton, Keith Myers, Brendan Martin, Lauren McCarroll
release US 14.Sep.18
City lights: Hardwick and Good
SUNDANCE FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
There's a loose, offhanded edge to this film that makes it feel more like a fly-on-the-wall doc than a scripted drama. With its elaborate single long take and improv-style dialog, the camera is part of the ensemble, drawing the audience right into the middle of each encounter. Basically an extended romantic introduction, the film has clear echoes of Before Sunrise, and it's infused with a velvety soulfulness.
In Los Angeles on the night of the 2016 election, beefy Cass (Hardwick) and his lively friend Roc (Ellis) keep one eye on news alerts while out with a group of women. In the street, Cass befriends Free (Good), and she joins them in a club. There's a hot spark of attraction between them, although Cass comes on too strongly. But his feelings are deeper than lust, so they go to a party while Free waits for her flight home. And over the next hour, they challenge each other to make more of their lives.
Cinematographer Steven Holleran seamlessly shifts from wide shots in the streets to intimate moments in blue-lit clubs, moving between characters to create spaces and connections. Intriguingly, Cass seems to be the only one bothered by the election results, which puts a shadow over the night for him, brought into uncomfortable focus by an encounter with a cop. The tone may be a bit languid, only rarely bursting with any real energy, but it's continually intriguing and thoughtful.
The understated performances gurgle with powerful emotions. Hardwick and Good are terrific as people trying be cool to a stranger, but failing to conceal their underlying feelings. This makes their connection feel remarkably strong, allowing them to realistically share about their hopes, fears and regrets. Both are artists who have settled for safer ways to make a living, and they offer each other a boost of encouragement. Moody and introspective, both are deeply involving.
"Nobody ever gets what they really want," Free says realistically, stirring them to challenge each other to be who they want to be. So amid the impressive technical achievement of shooting this in one take, there's a darkly involving story that provokes the audience to examine ourselves. And underscoring the personal story is a quiet comment on the larger issue of what happened to America on that fateful day, something felt especially strongly by marginalised communities who were already victimised by Trump's campaign rhetoric and couldn't imagine the coming nightmare.
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© 2018 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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