I expected a lot of “afterschool special” moments filled with exposition about #blacklivesmatter and white privilege. There was some of that. But there was also a realness in the writing and a sincerity in the actors’ deliveries that kept me fully present and invested in the characters, the plot, and the film’s message.
The movie felt like one gut-punch after another and with subject matter like this, the tears and anger that follow are inevitable reactions. But there were joyful moments with pretty decent laughs to give us a few breaks from the intensity. Was there overacting? Hell yes! It is a teen-centered movie, after all. And more importantly, how else do Black folks demonstrate our pain to white audiences? It was tolerable enough, though, that it didn’t pull me out of the story. The last 20 minutes, however, dragged on and on searching for a suitable ending to all of the conflict introduced throughout the film. But there’s really no simple ending to a story like this. And that made this 2 hour plus movie annoying toward the end.
The film highlights broad issues Black communities face: the tough choices we make to escape poverty, the frustration and confusion of being Black navigating white spaces, the very real set up of prison pipelines in public schools, and the struggle to transform family curses into family legacy. It’s clearly attempting to educate an audience that won’t ever see a Black neighborhood up close, while trying keep those of us who actually live there engaged. This film is talking to white people, white teens most likely. There were many in my screening. But I did find myself, a Black woman squarely on the inside of Black struggle in America, really considering how much hate I give to those that inflict pain on us. In that respect, I think this movie did what it set out to do.