This was a movie that blew me away and ended up in my ‘Top-10 Movies of the Year’ with a (95%) on the entertainment meter in my mind. It’s a powerful drama, with strong elements of comedy directed by Carlos Lopez Estrada. It’s written by Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal who also star in the two leads roles. The story is set in Oakland and follows a guy who is on his final days of probation. He is just trying to stay out of trouble, but his best-friend has a tendency for attracting the type of attention that could jeopardize this young man’s chance at freedom.
The performances of Diggs and Casal were easily the spotlight of this movie. But the natural progression of the story itself, as well as the relationship between the two, were equally as riveting and attention grabbing. The dialogue is authentic. It’s never forced. It just feels like two friends talking on routine occasions and it made the connecting to both of them come much quicker than in most films. Despite their friendship, there are many differences between them. One is eloquent, and educated. The other is raw and unfiltered, and the contrast between them is impactful to the story, but also delivered with a subtlety that I felt was fascinating.
The story-line was intimate and lacking all the studio flare which was awesome. It felt like a peek inside people’s lives, not like watching performers, and this created a much more engaging experience while watching. This let the intensity of certain scenes and the connection between the characters feel genuine and it was exactly what this story needed. The dialogue was amazing. When it was needed to deliver dramatic impact it succeed. When it needed to break the weight of the subject-matter with some levity it thrived with a grounded sense-of-humor. And when the emotions kicked up the feelings and reactions of the characters felt believable and heartfelt.
The film explores the gentrification of neighborhoods and the blending of race and social class and it was naturally thought-provoking. It peels back layers to show the effects this has on society, as well as these two characters specifically. It think this film will stand-up for years down the road because of the sincerity in how the commentary is explored. It left me thinking long after and with some subtle but stylish direction, it delivered some vibrant visual appeal to complement an atmospheric soundtrack. It also delivers a final-act that is as unassuming as one can be, while still pulling me up in my seat with a powerful message and an impressive delivery from Diggs.