Mae (Issa Rae: Little) spent her whole life wondering why her mother Christina (Chanté Adams: Bad Hair) didn’t love her. A talented photographer, Christina spent her life chasing pictures and leaving behind everyone in her life—including her daughter. When she dies, Mae grieves not for her mother, but the relationship that they never had.
But Christina wasn’t content to leave things as they were. She pens a long letter to Mae and includes a cryptic envelope she requests be delivered to Mae’s father.
Miles away, Michael Block (LaKeith Stanfield: Knives Out) is writing a profile of how Hurricane Katrina and the government’s lack of response harmed the fishing industry, especially black independent fisheries. He finds a fascinating photograph in one of his subject’s homes, taken by a photographer who moved from Louisiana to New York in the 80s. Block decides to look for her.
Instead of finding Christina, Michael finds Mae. They have an instant connection, but things are complicated. Mae is still reeling from her mother’s death and the revelations that she may be more her mother’s daughter than she anticipated. Michael is adrift, bouncing from relationships and jobs with no sense of direction.
Can Mae and Michael find a way to make their love last? Or are they locked into patterns of the past?
Sexy, heartfelt and utterly charming, The Photograph is a great date night flick. Director/writer Stella Meghie (The Weekend) knows how to set a beautiful scene and uses her incredibly captivating cast to their best advantage. There’s also a good bit of comedy, a smart move that keeps the story from being bogged down with dramatic revelations. Every scene is beautifully lit and shot, a feast for the senses. She offers two distinct palettes: One for the New York romance and one for the Louisiana romance. It’s a strong choice that gives the film depth.
The real draw is the mesmerizing chemistry between Stanfield and Rae. Stanfield’s easygoing delivery complements Rae’s nervous energy. They fit together perfectly. Mae challenges Michael when he tries to shy away from ugly truths. Michael won’t let Mae run from emotions that scare her. It’s a wonderful dynamic, and one that is incredibly satisfying to watch.
The movie also brilliantly captures all the little nuances that come as people transition from crush to relationship. Meghie catches every little flirty glance and secret smile that Michael and Mae have as they begin to realize there’s more to their connection than a physical pull.
This deeply romantic film filled with charismatic actors could have gone deeper with the script. Though Mae has been deeply hurt and shaped by her relationship with her mother, we hardly ever see them interact. While both love stories are charming, context for Mae’s trauma would make the storyline more touching.
In spite of these quibbles, The Photograph is a sure crowd-pleaser.
Good Romantic Drama * PG-13 * 106 mins.
Brahms: The Boy II
When Liza (Katie Holmes) moves her family into the historic Heelshire Mansion, she’s hoping for a bit of a new start. But her son discovers a creepy doll named Brahms in the woods and soon is telling her that Brahms has demands about how he’s treated in the household. Liza assumes her son is just acting out, adjusting to the new house and life.
But when odd things start to happen, Liza fears the doll might just be more than a coping mechanism.
Here’s a valuable tip: If you find out a huge manor is on sale at an incredibly low price…go ahead and Google it to make sure it wasn’t the scene of a murder/possession/demonic ritual.
The first Boy movie was a mildly creepy horror movie with an ending so absurd there was laughter throughout the theater. This film, which presumably builds upon the same twist, will likely inspire the same reaction.
Prospects: Unintentionally Funny * PG-13 * 86 mins.
The Call of the Wild
Pampered house pet Buck experiences a rude awakening when he’s stolen from his California home and sold to a Gold Rush sled team in the Alaskan wilderness. After adjusting to his new lot in life, Buck realizes he’s well suited to a wild lifestyle.
I’m going to warn all middle and high school students now—don’t watch this movie and think you’ll be able to fake your way through a book report or paper. Jack London’s novel is a brutal story of embracing your inner nature. This film, clearly made with a younger audience in mind, will likely skip over lots of the animal abuse and murders.
Prospects: Flickering * PG * 110 mins. p