Bringing something new to the table in a coming-of-age movie is rarely an easy feat. Aristotle Torres’ Story Ave admittedly does follow a few of the tropes this genre is known for. However, its familiarities are quickly forgotten through the raw performances, the building of the characters’ mental and emotional struggles, and from the artistic direction from Torres. All of which make Story Ave a highly engaging and at times emotionally searing portrayal of a troubled kid navigating the darkness of life in search of something better.
Young Kadir (Asante Blackk) is a street artist dealing with the grief of recently losing his brother. He has seemingly nothing but bad temptations all around him with invisible and at times physical hands holding him back from the path of a bright future, all the while dealing with the mental trauma of his loss. Young Kadir has a lot on his plate with no way to cope but through his art and that art is the one bright spot in his life.
He has a fractured relationship with his parents, sleeps on the subway at night and is debating joining his friend’s older brother Skemes’ (Melvin Gregg) crew. Skemes gives Kadir a chance to join his gang, and to make a little cash so he is sent to rob someone as a loose initiation. That someone ends up being an MTA worker named Luis (Luis Guzmán). But instead of a robbery the two form a connection. Both are broken emotionally but for different reasons and this unlikely friendship is the one possible aspect of Kadir’s life that could change his perspective and lead to a future filled with success.
So naturally you can easily connect to and root for this kid. He has a chip on his shoulder, but you can see the vulnerability in him. Blackk’s delivery humanizes Kadir perfectly. This allows the expression of his pain to shine on the screen, to easily lure you in and it’s due to the amazing performance from Blackk who is undeniably a star on the rise. Blackk pours himself into this role and along with Guzmán they carry this story with ease. Guzmán delivers one of his best performances and his chemistry with Blackk is just what this plot needs to effectively sell all the emotional layering.
Torres gives Story Ave an artistic atmosphere with his angles, his exploration of Kadir’s artwork, and through the music to give the entire film an alluring, raw vibe. It effectively pulls you into this intimate story fueled by emotions and character struggles. It’s a heartbreaking film. It’s a heartwarming one as well, and regardless of a few predictable plot beats, Story Ave is a fresh take on the genre that showcases two knockout character performances.
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