While the film is supposed to be about a murder which 37 people missed, it seems more about 3 children coping with the parents they were given.
Sexual Assault & Child Abuse
In this one building filled with eccentric people, the focus primarily is on three families. One being 5-year-old Troy’s (Marquise Gary) family comprised of his mother Joyce (Samira Wiley) and much older father Archibald (Michael Potts) who are struggling with how to raise Troy in 1960s America. Then there is Billy (Evan Fine) whose mom Mary (Maria Dizzia) is on edge, a housewife with a husband, Bob (Jamie Harrold) who may have lost her job, and while she is trying to keep her cool, between Billy’s antics and how distant Bob seems at times, she sometimes seems on the verge of nervous breakdown. Leaving Debbie (Sophia Lillis). Debbie is an odd little girl who counts her steps in fear that one too many may mean a disaster. Because of this, and a rumor going around about her family and insurance fraud, only a nice tutor named Kitty (Christina Brucato) seems to take time with her. Not to imply her grandparents aren’t kind, but the circumstances of them getting Debbie implies there is more going on than revealed to us.
The Lives of The Three Children: To me, if you focus solely on the eccentricities of the adults in the film, then the film is a muddled mess. However, if you focus on the kids then you see how these adults and what they’ve been through, and are going through, are affecting their children. Take Troy for example. His father, despite the boy only being 5, is already trying to mold him into a man. Has him boxing with him, and trying to make it seem the dreams Joyce has for him, going to college, aren’t realistic. Not because the boy isn’t capable, but because of Archibald’s upbringing and his understandings of race and opportunity. Much less, this pride in not having to ask for anything.
The other children as well have parents whose issues with themselves are inflicted on their children. Debbie seems to be trying to figure out a way to deal with her mother’s absence, lack of friends, and grandparents who just don’t understand. She finds some solace in Kitty, who is sweet on Debbie, but unfortunately, Debbie is 12 and Kitty is an adult.
Billy experiences something similar but rather than an adult being his confidant it is his older brother. For, you see, Mary is always giving Billy strikes for disobedience and if he gets enough he has to wear a sign that he has been bad and isn’t supposed to be talked to. On top of that, he gets spankings, from his dad, when his mom really feels pushed to the limits.
Too Weird For Its Own Good: An element of this movie is Billy’s belief that aliens are going to come down and this is played up far too much. Almost to the point you’d think aliens really are going to come to this building in Queens and rather than this being a movie about 37 people who did nothing while someone was raped and murdered, it would be 37 people who hid from aliens as they abducted someone.
Overall: Negative (Skip It)
While arguably the analysis of the adults as parents, and how their parenting is affecting their children, can be seen as interesting, I must admit it took me a while to come up with that highlight. Reason being, for most of the movie I felt quite indifferent to it with its odd, sort of eerie, tone. A tone in which you do feel a bit curious as to who will be the victim that was ignored by 37 sets of eyes. However, once it became clear who the victim was and you saw everyone ignore or be distracted in their own way, and realized their distractions were not something of substance to drown out the screams and images burned into your mind, you are left with very little to take interest in. For even though the children all present interesting cases, the focus of the film is spread too thin to make any of their situations substantial enough to save this film from itself.
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