by Natasha Theobald
SCREENED AT THE BLACK HARVEST INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF FILM AND VIDEO 2005: We've all felt it at one time or another - completely trapped. Whether it is a relationship we somehow can't leave behind or a family member who drives us full-on batty, desperate need for escape doesn't always produce a method. Most people can't just dump the job they hate, because rent would still be due. Most people can't just up and move to a fresh start in a new place. Freedom truly is hard to come by. Though our prisons have no bars, are in fact our own creations more often than not, they are no easier to escape than literal cells. Pace if you must, cry if it helps, but there is no quitting when the project is your life.Andre (Elliott V. Porter) is a man at the center of a storm. He has an ex who seems to make everything a higher priority than the life of the son (Jeshurun Tutson) they share. He has a new love interest (Inda Craig-Galvan) who can't or won't take him seriously. He has a boss with no respect for his talent or contribution in the workplace. He has a brother (Simeon Henderson) who has chosen an illegal and potentially dangerous career path. He has parents who don't get him, friends who talk more than they listen, and a life to lead, somehow, in between taking care of the details. If this is starting to sound a little too familiar, I truly am sorry.
"One man, many messes."
As you may imagine, this story is a slice of life. Like life, there are dramatic twists and turns. Like life, there are moments of spirit and humor. The movie is populated with true characters, distinct individuals following the paths they find before them, for good or no. The strong script, with only a few overlong or overwrought moments, features natural-seeming dialogue, the first gift Porter, also the writer, has given the film. The second is a strong lead performance, powerful enough to be the center of the film's universe but subtle enough, with charm and heart, that it seems right for everyone to gravitate to him.
The cast as a whole seems, for the most part, talented individually and cohesive as a group. Many have a natural ease in front of the camera. Standouts beyond Porter include Simeon Henderson as Cedrick, the brother who means well, the best friend who tries hard, but the man with a struggle at hand. One actress, too, Michelle Shelton Huff, who plays the character of Latrice, uses two short scenes to full effect. She is given one scene to be spicy and one to be sweet, and the combination adds up to a compelling character, even with her limited screen time.
As the film is a low-budget production, there are some issues of quality, particularly with sound. It's hard to grab a shot in the windy city without some noise, traffic or otherwise, it seems, but the actors and filmmakers tend to overcome the obstacle. The sound soars when the soundtrack kicks in, and whoever was responsible for the music has tremendous taste.In the end, it doesn't matter how much money goes into a film. It only matters that the final product offers a story with something to say. I came to care about the experiences of the people and the story, even with the small, perhaps unavoidable, hiccups in technical aspects of production. My sense is they made the best film they could with the tools they had. I look forward to great things from the team of Elridge Valentine and Elliott V. Porter in the future.
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originally posted: 08/31/05 23:04:59