I rented No Way To Live on Amazon thinking I was going to get some complicated 1950s interracial romance. But, let me tell you, don’t be fooled by the advertisement. We get something much more interesting.


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Trigger Warning(s): Old School Abortion

Summary

It’s 1958 Florida and a young girl named Nora (Freya Tingley) is in an unfortunate situation. Her momma is dead, Daddy has raped her ever since, and she has been financially trapped. But then this colored boy Monty (Tom Williamson), selling vacuum cleaners, takes an interest in Nora. To the point that, even with her daddy pointing a shotgun at him, he returns again. For, unbeknownst to her, she is a familiar face.

Highlights

Freya Tingley

Freya Tingley as Nora in No Way To Live
Freya Tingley as Nora in No Way To Live

I will do my best to keep the spoilers to a nil. But let me just say that with Tingley’s southern sweet, Marilyn Monroe-esque performance, you think this is a love story—like she is a damsel in distress and Monty is her knight in shining armor. But then, after a series of lies are uncovered, you begin to wonder how innocent she really is.

Criticism

The Dialog and Performances

Frey Tingley in No Way To Live
I may praise Tingley, but she had some cringey moments.

To me, the acting in the film is low-key cringey. Something I want to attribute to the fact there is no strong performer here to give either of our leads, Williamson or Tingley, that extra oomph. For, just speaking on what I know of Williamson from The Fosters, I know the dude can act. The issue here is that while decent on her own, Tingley isn’t that rock someone can lean on. She, at this point in her career, doesn’t have the skill yet to make herself look good alongside her co-star—something which I think speaks on Williamson’s abilities at this point. For maybe, in his scenes with Maia Mitchell, she is doing more of the heavy lifting than given credit for.

However, you have to take the script into account as well. There is such a strong focus on shocks and twists and they aren’t written to the actors’ skill set. Making it so, while, on the one hand, Tingley’s southern belle charm can seem like something to praise, at other times, her inexperience shines through, at least in terms of not playing a straightforward character. The same thing can be said about Williamson. It is like he is so into his head, perhaps trying to prove himself as an actor that, he can come off a bit cringey.

This can especially be said when he presents his own twists, and you just find yourself rolling your eyes. For at that point, you realize everyone in this production is trying too hard rather than making something that seems rooted and natural.

Addressing the Issues of Interracial Romance in the 1950s South

Tom Williamson as Monty, alongside Freya Tingley as Nora in No Way To Live
Tom Williamson as Monty, alongside Freya Tingley as Nora

In the grand scheme of things, Nora and Monty were purely to set up the twists. Hence why, while there is some touching on the idea of a white gal being a negro lover, it isn’t dived into. We don’t see culture clashes or anything like that. For, as said, the relationship is purely made to set us up.

On The Fence

Nora and Monty’s Romance

Screencap of No Way To Live

Knowing what Nora and Monty’s agenda ultimately is makes me wish the romance between them was stronger. If only because that was the period before the rug was pulled from under us. However, in retrospect, while surprised by the twist in the movie, I feel like the rug wasn’t pulled from under us but simply tugged.

This is mostly due to the writing and performances but also a bit because you never really get sold on either one’s façade. There is an attempt through googly eyes, kissing, and sex, but I can’t say you may be sold on it, especially since the cracks in each person’s façade are pointed out so blatantly. Such as when we see a newspaper article reveal one person’s lie and see one of our leads putting a hole in a condom. Thus making it so their ulterior motives pop up before you think you got a clear picture on who either of these two people are.

Overall

Mixed (Divisive)

Screencap from No Way To Live

For me, the issue with “No Way To Live” is that the actors weren’t ready for what the story called for, and the script didn’t live up to the plot twists. Also, while you do see effort from our leads, there are times when you can tell they are out of their depth.

I’d add that in the script, it seems like the twists are tentpole moments. The kind where, as you begin to drift off and focus on something else, it snatches your attention. But, it never lives up to the various twists that are actually intriguing. Well, except Monty’s, which just seemed to be the jumping-the-shark moment.

Hence, the mixed label. Overall, this feels like the type of movie where people are learning what it is like to work on a production of this scale. Between the writing/directing team of Nick Chakwin and David Guglielmo alongside lead actors Freya Tingley and Tom Williamson, all we see is growing pains—the kind that leads you to want to give some leeway, but not enough to blindly praise them for getting the production finished.


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One Comment

  1. How in 2024 does this writer not understand that calling the young man in the movie colored is mind boggling. I’ve read a lot of reviews, but this one was a waste of time reading.

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