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A spoken word artist tries to escape her life through poetry, only to realize putting pen to paper isn’t enough.
Trigger Warning(s): Violence against women
Review (with Spoilers)
I found out about this film months ago through Shadow & Act and since then I have been waiting for it to become more easily accessible. After all, it has the devastating Shanola Hampton, as well as Omari Hardwick in the film, much less with Hampton’s character being into spoken word, and due to the trailer, I was getting a serious Love Jones type of vibe. But, while this film may share Love Jones’ use of spoken word throughout the film, it focuses on life more than love.
Characters & Story
To begin, the movie focuses on Kalindra (played by Shanola Hampton) who is a young woman who has been with her husband Ronnie (played by Elimu Nelson) since they were freshmen in High School. Now, perhaps a decade, or more, later, they have developed into two different people and this causes issues between them. You see, Ronnie was once a star sports player who, post-injury, has become something of a burnout. And while he may not drink heavily, or do drugs, he does have demons in him that Kalindra ends up having to face off against.
But, while Ronnie sort of settles into a less than fulfilling life working menial jobs, Kalindra is trying to really get into her spoken word poetry. You see, a year from when the movie starts, Kalindra lost her baby and has been using spoken word to cope and get through her emotions ever since. This new means of expressing herself leads to the type of personal development which makes her outgrow a lot of people in her life, and then she meets Curtis Jackson (played by Omari Hardwick). Like her, he is going through some things in life and uses spoken word to escape. He starts off though as just an admirer of the art, and her, but with time and persistence, Kalindra finds herself stuck between what is familiar, though stunting, and an unknown world full of potential, waiting for her to seize it.
Let me first begin by saying that I do hope Shanola Hampton gets to become big. Between Shameless and this, you can see quite a bit of talent in her and the range of emotions she displays makes it so with each poem she does, her words grow stronger, her performance gets more personal and she draws you in more and more. Leading me to talk about the poetry. Admittedly, when the film first starts, the pieces didn’t have much punch, but as the movie goes on, and Hampton shows more of Kalindra as a character and we starts to connect with her, the lines become deeper and her words get the type of passion which get some type of reaction out of you. Perhaps it is best said, as Kalindra becomes a better-spoken word artist and goes deeper with her work, so does the movie get deeper when it comes to the past of Kalindra’s character, as well as her co-stars.
Leading me to the main bit of criticism I have about the film. When it comes to the co-stars, I do feel most of them were likable but quite weak. The reason I say this is because while the two male leads, Ronnie and Curtis, are given a back story, but it feels like the information is simply put out there. You see, unlike with Kalindra, there doesn’t seem to be a strong enough effort to empathize with Hardwick and Nelson’s character. More so they, and actress Tamala Jones’ character Daphne, feel like their main purpose is to make Hampton’s performance and character better than be characters which have the ability to stand on their own. I would dare even say that Kalindra’s development hinders the ability of any of the other characters to be more than people who may have a list of issues written on paper, but never get the chance to feel truly 3D human. Even the relationship aspect, to me, feels like all the chemistry and work comes from Hampton’s character and the rest are going along with what is written.
Another thing worth noting is that the film is, as Jill Scott says of herself, a wood burning over. Being that the film is two hours long, it does it best to utilize this time so that Kalindra, and her fellow poets, progress over time. So while the spoken word, in the beginning, may not really be moving, by the end, whether it is Kalindra, Curtis, or the other acts featured, everyone ends up speaking from a place capable of making you feel something in your soul.
Overall: Mixed (Rent on DVD)
A part of me while watching this sort of wished this was a TV series. The reason I say that is because the writing, despite the film being nearly 2 hours, doesn’t give enough for Hampton’s co-stars so there can be somewhere near her level and develop as much as her character does. If anything, they are given a foundation but never give the time to really build off from there since they are always in Kalindra’s shadow. But, they all remain excellent supporting roles which help push Hampton’s character and performance into something excellent. This is why I say the film is worth renting. Between the drama, the poetry, especially one piece Hardwick’s character does near the end, and the lives we witness, once this movie warms up and gets rolling, I think it would be hard for you not to get hooked.