For me it landed in both lanes, I was so intrigued in the better half of the film (01:25:00 min) of it and after that I felt like it turned into; "ok what do we do now". Leaving the film teetering from one story to another and not in that fun pulp fiction way, more in that we (production) don't really know how to accurately tell this story that provides solid and reasonable resolution for this narration of trauma and forgiveness.
Part 1: What I liked
For me there were a lot of strong shots, and bold colours.
If you know me you know I'm all about aesthetics, and picturesque moments.
and the music selection, we heard tunes like Pretty Little Birds by SZA, Seigfried by Fank Ocean, IFHY by Tyler the Creator,
Backseat Freestyle by Kendrick Lamar etc. I thought a lot of the sound bridges were really dope
A sound bridge is a transitional device used in film to connect one visual scene to another through sound.
for instance, right before Tyler bodied his dad to the ground during their wrestling practice the sound cuts right as his body hits the mat, and the scene after is his MRI scan and the nondiegetic sound is this techno rap track that mimics the diegetic machine noise.
Part 2: What I Didn't Like
This film was directed and produced by people who to me don't truly identify with the subject matter, so the film was written, co-produced and directed by Trey Edward Shults; A white man who was born in Texas. The other producers Kevin Turen and Jessica Row are also a white man and a white women, and if you look into all the people who played big roles in creating this film, you'll realize mostly everyone was white, and I bring this up because who tells the stories makes a big difference in what is produced.
Obviously there are no rules that say you have to be black to tell black stories, but I think on the other hand it's very telling when a story is left somewhat empty in some aspects of resolution.
We're dealing with a film that spends a better half of the time centred around a black family navigating life, to be specific the films synopsis describes it as "tracingthe emotional journey of a suburban family as they navigate love, forgiveness, and coming together in the aftermath of a loss".
I said wait hold up pause!
Ok I definitely see the detail in how they showed us how Tyler got to where he got to, and how that effected everyone; but did they do the due diligence to accurately depict the aftermath of this narrative, because this is not some made up scenario this is a lot of black families realities in America and around the world.
I bring this up because as soon as I got to (01:45:00 min) I started to think about the work of Dr. Joy DeGruy, she spent years studying and developing a concept called 'Post traumatic Slave syndrome', this is such an important concept that lands in the centre of why this story matters, and because it matters how it is detailed (start to finish) will be so important too.
The overarching theme in this film starts with mental health into mental illness and how that affects the nuclear family and societal community level. I want to use an unboiled egg as an analogy of the human psyche, in the black community mental health has never been treated like an Egg, for white people the mental health and illness egg has forever been treated with the up most care and rehabilitation.
if you watch this audio interview, where DeGruy explains how that kind of trauma follows generations and creates behaviours that further demonizes the black and brown kids it created, it will position your mind to understand why this film did not bring justice to this story. But just added to the stereotypical stories about black men.
Now I don't expect you to watch the interview now as it's an 1hr long but eventually please do. Because she draws on real life similarities the film showcased real lived experiences shared among a lot of African Americans.
For instance, the way his father pushed him, which further pushed him over the edge. This is similar to the scenario DeGruy talks about when she explains the story of two close friends who are also mothers, one is black and the other is white. (watch the interview for the rest of that breakdown)
but to summarize, from learned behaviour of enslave women trying to protect their sons from getting sold and their daughters raped, they had to denigrate their kids in order to keep them close.
I think the way the father went about his encouragement did not come from a place of compassion, but from a place of fear of his son failing as a man and a black man to be exact, and as DeGruy explains the kids only realize that secrete often when they've been so hurt by it its to late. in this case when Tyler Murdered his girlfriend, which was when when is mental egg cracked from all the unresolved blows.
The dad would say things like
“You don’t know how good you got it”
That pressure to live up to expectations of parents perception of successful black boy in America is nothing to mess up, especially when you have the chance to tell the story on screen. I felt like what the film truly lacked in all of this, was the representation of help in that forgiveness and healing aspect, where was the resolution that something like family therapy or therapy in jail systems is what is truly needed to navigate out of this trauma, even for the family of Alexis; To me it ended with a hint of 'white saviour" toppings
In the sense that instead of focusing on the the families journey through loss and forgiveness we had to explore that more through the sisters boyfriends experience of forgiveness towards his abusive father, and i'm not saying that does not matter but realistically how does that all of a sudden heal the wounds of this black family that didn't seem to have gone through therapy as a unit to collectively heal, like how strong would it have been if we saw those steps and watched something similar to how the show Euphoria's therapy session episodes were used.
I also felt like at this point I woke up from the spell of the movie and saw it for what it was not (a good representation of that experience)
here's a resource I think is a necessary podcast to tap into by Luvvie Ajayi Jones titled Normalize Therapy - Episode 4