Director Carey Williams returns to Sundance making his U.S. Dramatic Competition debut with “Emergency”. The full-feature version of his 2018 Special Jury winning short. This one tells the story of college friends Kunle and Sean. One is a thriving student with dreams and the other is more relaxed and content enjoying the parties. A routine night is turned upside down when a quick stop at home reveals a white girl passed out on their floor. Not knowing where she came from the decision of what to do poses many risks. Afraid of calling the police under the social climate, the night spirals into one no one involved will ever forget.
Now I know what you’re thinking. It sounds like a routine college comedy with an undercurrent of social commentary. And that is exactly what “Emergency” delivers. However, Williams layers so much more into this story. It certainly has its spots of being a crude raunch-com, and these spots are effectively humorous. Yet it also has very grounded and emotionally rooted moments that explore the dangers, and fears people of color must deal with on a daily basis in a country that professes its gift of freedom while also being seemingly resistant to ending racial inequality. The result is a film that can pull you in and take you on a roller coaster of emotions as cliche as that may sound.
This one will make you laugh. It will have you on edge feeling the tension these characters face throughout the story. It will hit your heart’s core, and it will lift your spirits. It has been some time since a film has been able to balance so many tonal elements like they were meant to be together, but “Emergency” accomplishes just that. Something that could not have been possible without the relevance in the writing and the authenticity in the performances. This could have easily been a very heavy-handed film given the subject matter. Instead, through the levity, this film is able to explore this impactful material with a vibrant charisma that does nothing but help make it all resonate with the viewer so much easier because of how simply engaging it was.
Donald Elise Watkins and Ry Cyler were both fantastic in the leads. Watkins brought a spirited charm to his performance. He has hopes and dreams and it instantly enables a connection to him. Cyler certainly is the comedic relief but when the story calls, he delivers plenty of emotional energy as does Watkins to provide this movie just what it needs. These guys feel like real buddies, it makes the wild night between them and the stress it puts on their friendship genuinely intriguing. All of which is more than enough to create a vested interest in seeing where this one will go for these two old friends. “Emergency” delivers the full gambit, but in an unassuming package.
Anthony J. Digioia II © 2022 SilverScreen Analysis. All Rights Reserved.