8/10 Earlier this year I positively reviewed 2014’s “Imperial Dreams” with John Boyega and gave it a 7/10. Six years later we have “All Day and a Night” which is in a similar vein and touches upon some of the same issues of black culture, a broken system, fatherhood, etc. Here, the results are even stronger than “Imperial Dreams”. This is writer/director Joe Robert Cole’s second directorial effort (his debut came all the way back in 2011) but he has some solid writing and producing credits under his belt. As writer and director here, he has complete control over the final product and it is one he should be proud of. A pet peeve of mine that you will often see in films of this nature is that the film maker will portray problems in black communities as stemming from everyone else’s fault except for the community itself. Obviously there are multiple factors and parties to blame when it comes to issues in black communities like the culture of violence/gangs, single mothers, poverty, etc. While systemic issues have existed, to place all the blame there would be very narrow minded. Yet Cole’s screenplay is strong enough that it takes responsibility, does not shy away from black on black violence that riddles black communities but does so with a steady, fair hand. This is a film that, from my limited understanding, seems to be an accurate portrayal of many black communities in America from today and in the past. The people, situations, themes and emotions all feel like they are coming from real, authentic places that Cole has experienced either in his own life or through research. I won’t pretend to be an expert on any and all issues in the black community since I know about films but this film is great and I love that it never talks down to the audience or becomes preachy, lecturing the viewer about their “privilege” to make them feel guilty, as many Spike Lee movies do. The film simply tells the story of a young, black man (played brilliantly by “Moonlight” standout Ashton Sanders) who commits homicide and has to reflect on his mistakes, having a son while behind bars and what brought him to that point. The film is more reflective and thought provoking and although I wish it would have been a little more emotional, the focus of the film is well thought out and executed. The film doesn’t break much new ground and as I’ve mentioned, other films tackle similar subject matter but the fantastic cast (Jeffrey Wright is so consistently dependable as a great go to actor and has yet to phone in a performance that I’ve seen), clear vision from Cole, solid pacing and disciplined use of the score/soundtrack make this a somber film worth seeking out.
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