George Tillman Jr. directs Amandla Stenberg, Russell Hornsby and Regina Hall in this YA drama about a conscientious black girl who gets embroiled with police violence and gang violence after her childhood friend is shot by a nervous cop.
The trailer missold this as a preachy, one note ode to wokeness. One that presents and exploits a lot of racially charged situations for scenes of “poor me” handwrininging and triumphant sermonising. The film itself is still very Hollywood in its production but more complex in its exploration and conclusions. The drama is given time and patience to percolate and articulate itself, the characters are sophisticated and fallible. It is a film with equal amounts of disdain towards black on black violence and hashtag activism as it has for police brutality. If the imagery can often be a little syrupy, the acting is anything but. Stenberg charms in the scenes where she just gets to be a kid and is comfortable in navigating the starker moments. Hornsby, as her a former dealer of a father, makes for a fine patriarch. He brings a frustration and a sensitivity to a part that might fall apart in a lesser actor’s hands. He reminded me of Laurence Fishburne’s iconic turn in Boyz N the Hood. Maverick Carter is a better father than Furious Styles. Here’s hoping this persuasive support turn is remembered come Oscar nominations time.