Set in Philadelphia in 1976, Marcus Washington (Anthony Mackie) returns home to bury his father and inadvertently gets drawn back into his old world, very different in some way to his younger days and in others exactly the same.
His return opens old wounds within the community regarding an event that had taken place a decade previously.
It feels like this could have been a brilliant HBO series, the film is too short, the characters earning the right to a full treatment. Everybody brings interesting work to the table. Joining Mackie is Kerry Washington, very good as an old comrade from the Black Panther days. Wendell Pearce turns up as a cop and another Wire alumnus, Jamie Hector supports well as the local man on the block.
This is a film that doesn’t shout its message from the rooftops, as in real life, there are complexities in the minutiae of life and this film approaches them with a subtler energy than usual. It’s a well put together drama about the ghosts of the past and how unless you break free of them they can keep you in a place.
The film is directed by Tanya Hamilton, which explains a lot about the way the film plays out. This was her first feature, which she wrote, co-produced and directed.
With the majority of films released helmed by men, it is a joy to get the feminine angle.
Like Wadjda the message is brought in sensitively and there are really no black and white answers to the problems. There are so many aspects to one’s life and certain sacrifices have to be made for the greater good or at least for the benefit of one’s immediate family and situation.
The problem here is that the credits roll at the point that feels like the end of the first episode.
One is left wanting more.
The music is brilliant, starting with El Michel’s Affair’s instrumental version of C.R.E.A.M and going on to use another 3 tunes from their Wu inspired album Enter the 37th Chamber (well worth getting by the way).
It evokes a time beautifully and with soul.
An interesting film looking at the relationships we have with our family, our secrets and our past.