Exhibiting Forgiveness – Movie Review and Summary

“Exhibiting Forgiveness” might be a challenging watch for anyone who has a less-than-ideal relationship with a parent, especially if drugs and family violence is why.


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Tarrell (André Holland) and Aisha (Andra Day) - Exhibiting Forgiveness

Plot Summary

Tarrell is a renowned artist of the canvas variety, and his wife, Aisha, is an artist of the musical kind. Together, they are raising Jermaine, and through Jermaine, Tarrell is getting to know what it means to be a father since his own, La’Ron, has been missing from his life for 15 years and even before that, due to La’Ron’s drug addiction, the title of “Dad” was rarely uttered after a notable incident.

But, between nightmares that worry Aisha, and Tarrell’s mother, Joyce, he finds himself pushed to figure out why his father still has some hold on him, for if he doesn’t, he could potentially lose the life he has worked so hard for.

Content Information

  • Dialog: Cursing
  • Violence: Family Violence, Blood
  • Sexual Content: Nothing Notable
  • Miscellaneous: Drug Use, Smoking, Drinking

General Information

Director(s)

Titus Kaphar

Screenplay By

Titus Kaphar

Based On Work By

N/A

Date Released

January 25, 2024

How To Watch

Film Festival – Sundance

Genre(s)

Drama

Film Length

1 Hour 56 Minutes

Content Rating

Not Rated

Noted Characters and Cast

Quentin

Matthew Elam

Joyce

Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor

La’Ron

John Earl Jelks

Jermaine

Daniel Berrier

Aisha

Andra Day

Tarrell

André Holland

Character Descriptions

Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member, and character descriptions may contain what can be considered spoilers.

Tarrell (André Holland)

Tarrell is a working artist, fresh from a recent gallery opening, who processes his trauma through working via his canvas.

Aisha (Andra Day)

Aisha is a musician, Tarrell’s wife, and mother to Jermaine, who is trying to make a new song.

Jermaine (Daniel Berrier)

Jermaine is Tarrell and Aisha’s son.

La’Ron (John Earl Jelks)

La’Ron is Tarrell’s father, Joyce’s ex, who hasn’t been in his life for over 15 years, mainly due to him being addicted to crack.

Joyce (Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor)

Joyce is Quentin and Tarrell’s mom, who is supposed to be moving closer to Tarrell, so he can take better care of her, since he is a top-level momma’s boy.

  • The actor is also known for their role in “Origin.”

Quentin (Matthew Elam)

Quentin is Tarrell’s brother, whom we don’t learn much about.

Collected Quote(s)

What I did wrong taught you to do right.
— La’Ron

Review


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Notable Performances or Moments

The Scenes and Conversations About Boys And Their Fathers

The conversation in recent years has shifted from doing what you were taught or what you knew to breaking generational curses. We see the shift in parenting from La’Ron talking about his relationship with his father, seeing Tarrell’s childhood, and also his present relationship with his dad, to Tarrell and Jermaine. There is a weight there, and you can tell when it comes to La’Ron, he may have been abused by his father and mistreated, but that was still his daddy, so he carried that weight. He even gave some of that weight to his son, almost like it was a present and that trauma, and the response to it, is a gift, for it gives you the tools to survive.

Yet, as shown through the young Tarrell, some gifts, like pushing yourself to the limit, lack of empathy, and things of that nature, may allow for some twisted form of thinking you are doing right by your child, but it isn’t. In fact, La’Ron outright says, when criticized, he wouldn’t care if Tarrell hated him, seemingly because he was teaching him to be a man, and maybe he thought he had time to win him back.

In many ways, especially if you have an older parent, this dynamic still potentially plays out. They raised you, was there, taught you, and have a handful of good memories, so with that in mind, they figure they did good, they did their job, and your success shows anything you may call abuse is justified. But, as shown by Tarrell, the lack of care, watching Aisha be assaulted, that doesn’t make you stronger, more clever, or harder working. All that does is add to the weight you were already given and make it so that when good people, like Aisha, come into your son’s life, while people like Tarrell may not struggle as hard as their parents, new ways come about to make their life hard.

As you can imagine, no matter how deep the love is, not everyone is going to put up with it forever, especially as they see the potential of you, perhaps inadvertently, passing on the weight of past trauma to their child.

Highlights

Aisha As A Partner

Focusing a bit more on Aisha, what we love about her is that she isn’t a one-note character. She is a singer working on a piece, and there isn’t one mention of money or anything like that. I mention that because we don’t see Aisha perform in front of an audience, there isn’t any talk about a tour or album, but it is made clear that Tarrell respects her art. He doesn’t make it seem his work is more important or lucrative; none of that. Instead, he recognizes they share a creative space and makes it clear that it is her turn to use that space, for him to mind Jermaine, perhaps, and it allows you to see a loving partnership.

Even beyond respecting her work, you can see her stick up for him regarding La’Ron pushing Tarrell’s buttons, rightfully holding Tarrell accountable for his mental health, and reminding him that not everything can be worked out through painting on a canvas. I’d even say, that while “Exhibiting Forgiveness” isn’t a romance movie, it does push one of the healthiest relationships I’ve seen between a Black couple.

Tarrell’s Relationship With His Mom

There is something about a trauma bond between survivors that is intense. As a child, Tarrell was helpless, but his mom provided and got him to where he is. In return, he wants to take care of her and instills in his son the importance of moms to normalize how much he loves his own. It is all so sweet and beautiful, but it isn’t all roses.

We’re reminded Joyce isn’t a saint or martyr. Not to imply she was anywhere near as bad as La’Ron, but she was prone to sins of the flesh with men who weren’t up to par. Heck, one of the main issues Tarrell has with her is her continued love and grace for La’Ron despite all he did to her, his son, and his own family.

In that, we’re reminded that even when a trauma bond is what established the relationship, it doesn’t mean that bond doesn’t bend and twist. As the thing that connects you leaves, or you aren’t on the same page about it, that can test the relationship, and while Tarrell will always love his mother, it is made clear sometimes her decisions do make it difficult and to a point, she is part of the reason the trauma that bonds them exists.

How Some Use Religion To Avoid Accountability

A running issue for Tarrell is how his parents use religion to absolve themselves or press him to do what they want. In many ways, you get it; this is what happens, but what makes “Exhibiting Forgiveness” notable is that you can see it as a tactic to avoid accountability.

The prime example is La’Ron trying to push he is a changed man due to his renewed faith whenever he is called out on things he did as an addict. Note, he has certainly been coerced to put in the work, but the refusal to say he did what he did almost comes off like gaslighting.

This makes the challenge of Tarrell forgiving his father harder since you can see both La’Ron and Joyce wish to sweep what happened under the rug, with Joyce outright deciding to re-write a notable episode she had with La’Ron in an effort to move on and using scripture to try to push Tarrell to do the same.

It makes the idea of how religion is used as a shield interesting, and reminds me of some of the conversations “The Book of Clarence” was trying to trigger, particularly when it wished to be more critical of faith.

On The Fence

Tarrell’s Brother and La’Ron’s Family

You could consider Quentin, Joyce’s other son, but not by La’Ron, and La’Ron’s family, as unnecessary inclusions. If not, at times, the type that you wish did get cut for having them there makes you partly want to know more.

For example, we meet La’Ron’s brother, who clearly tried and failed to help his brother, and you see a whole saga there that is sidestepped – mainly due to Tarrell and his uncle not sharing a single scene. Then, when it comes to Quentin, Tarrell maybe has 3 to 4 scenes with him, none relatively long or insightful. This leaves you to question why Quentin even exists beyond the push that Joyce not only has bad taste in men but has had more than one kid because of that.

Then, with Tarrell’s uncle, considering he could have added layers to La’Ron, their father, and more, yet has one scene that does nothing but make it clear La’Ron stole for his habit? Again, there is this feeling that there could have been consolidation here.

Good If You Like

  • Family dramas, with the son as the focus

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Exhibiting Forgiveness – Movie Review

Summary

Our Rating: Positive (Worth Seeing)

“Exhibiting Forgiveness” is a notable effort as it dives into a family’s unfortunate history and gives us a balance between a terrible father and partner in La’Ron and the opposite in Tarrell with his wife and son.

Overall
82%
82%
  • The Scenes and Conversations About Boys And Their Fathers - 88%
    88%
  • Aisha As A Partner - 84%
    84%
  • Tarrell’s Relationship With His Mom - 83%
    83%
  • How Some Use Religion To Avoid Accountability - 82.5%
    83%
  • Tarrell’s Brother and La’Ron’s Family - 74%
    74%

Highlight(s)

  • How Some Use Religion To Avoid Accountability
  • Tarrell’s Relationship With His Mom
  • Aisha As A Partner
  • The Scenes and Conversations About Boys And Their Fathers

Disputable

  • Tarrell’s Brother and La’Ron’s Family

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