×

Film Review: ‘A Boy. A Girl. A Dream’

Two strangers get to know each other during the night of Trump's election in Qasim Basir's single-shot, L.A.-set mood piece.

Director:
Qasim Basir
With:
Omari Hardwick, Meagan Good, Jay Ellis, Dijon Talton, Kris D. Lofton, Brytni Spray, Jason Dohring, Dave Brown, Dominiuque Perry, Keith Myers.

1 hour 29 minutes

“Shampoo” meets “Medicine for Melancholy” (or “Before Sunrise”) in Qasim Basir’s two-hander “A Boy. A Girl. A Dream” — though with its protagonists largely lost in their own thoughts, this tale of strangers meeting on the night of the 2016 U.S. presidential election substitutes a poetical moodiness for those earlier films’ bantering garrulousness. One of the smoothest enterprises yet among that select group of features shot in a single take, the film succeeds as more than an accomplished technical stunt, even if neither its political nor character dimensions feel quite fully realized. Samuel Goldwyn plans a release for later this year, and timing it close to the midterm elections might be a wise strategy.

Club promoter Cass (Omari Hardwick) and his friend Roc (Jay Ellis) are partying in downtown L.A. with a half-dozen attractive lady friends when Cass’ eye is caught by passer-by Frida aka Free (Meagan Good) as he grabs a quick dinner from a curbside food truck. He chats her up; she’s polite but ambivalent. Nonetheless, she winds up accompanying the group to a nightclub where she and Cass seem to be the only people not merrily oblivious to the fact that history is going down at the polls.

The attraction between them leads to a kiss, but Cass blows it by becoming too forward, and Free stomps off. Fate interrupts their discordant parting with an instance of racial harassment, however — one that underlines the authorities’ tendency to treat a black man as the instigator in any scuffle — and that sobering episode repairs their tenuous bond. The duo wind up traveling by cab to a house party high in the Hollywood Hills. There, the upscale, mostly African-American attendees are more attuned to the evolving election results, and like much of the nation that night, in a state of growing agitation edging toward shocked disbelief.

Thought the film, the two leads are mostly trying to avoid calls and texts from loved ones with whom they’re in (vaguely defined) conflict. Both are dissatisfied with their jobs, eventually sharing a few details: Cass’ promoting is just another way of putting off a dive into his real love, filmmaking, which means so much to him that he’s afraid to start in earnest for fear of failure. Meanwhile, Free caved to the pressure of family obligations in becoming a corporate lawyer, giving up her dream of becoming a deejay. Each have some of their creative work on their phones, with which they wow one another (but not the audience, which doesn’t get to spy the handheld screens); we just have to accept the conceit that two total strangers turn out to be extraordinary artists who give each other the confidence boost each needs.

That leap, and the shift in focus to a sort of love-story prelude (despite the fact that as written, these prickly protags tend to press one another’s buttons all too easily), winds up making the election night backdrop somewhat superfluous. Snippets of media reportage and commentary are heard, meditating on the surprise Trump win, and there are a couple short speeches about the gravity of that event — as well as the need for continued hope and struggle among communities the candidate targeted with his heated rhetoric during the campaign.

But beyond the general somber mood, the pic’s political commentary is implicit rather than explicit, which makes sense enough, as the central characters are too numbed by surprise to immediately wax articulate, or even angry, about the nation’s new era. (Of course, in the unlikely chance that a Trump supporter watches this nearly all-black-cast indie, they’ll probably dismiss the entire enterprise as “libtard” whining about nothing.) If Basir and Samantha Tanner’s screenplay ultimately feels like less than a full meal, its intelligence and restraint — particularly in resisting the lure of a heavier-handed message — are nonetheless admirable.

Both Good and Hardwick are attractive, charismatic performers who have no trouble bringing laser focus to a demanding task. Though we may wish the structure allowed space to learn more about their characters, it’s to the actors’ credit that we’d be happy to do so — even to the extent of a follow-up feature.

Despite the on-the-fly, real-time narrative approach, “A Boy” never plays as a mere logistical feat. (Apparently the elaborately pre-planned shoot required 13 full takes.) There’s an unexpected elegance to Steven Holleran’s widescreen photography, the primary quality of which is the glittering allure of the big city at night. In keeping with the concept, however, there’s minimal use of music.

Film Review: 'A Boy. A Girl. A Dream'

Reviewed online, San Francisco, March 9, 2018. (In SFFilm, Sundance.) Running time: 89 MIN.

Production: A Samuel Goldwyn Films release of a Datari Turner presentation. (International sales: CAA, Los Angeles.) Producer: Datari Turner. Executive producers: Omari Hardwick, Meagan Good, Louis Steyn, TJ Steyn, Tim Weatherspoon, Phil Thornton, Jamal Chilton, Jash’d Belcher.

Crew: Director, editor: Qasim Basir. Screenplay: Basir, Samantha Tanner. Camera (color, widescreen, HD): Steven Holleran. Music: Tony Anderson.

With: Omari Hardwick, Meagan Good, Jay Ellis, Dijon Talton, Kris D. Lofton, Brytni Spray, Jason Dohring, Dave Brown, Dominiuque Perry, Keith Myers.

More Film

  • Tiny: The Life of Erin Blackwell

    Film Review: 'TINY: The Life of Erin Blackwell'

    “Streetwise,”  the classic and haunting 1984 documentary about homeless street kids in Seattle, is a movie that’s now 35 years old. But for anyone who has seen it, the children it’s about — drifters, hustlers, squatters, thieves, prostitutes — remain frozen in time. And none of them was ever more memorable than Tiny, the 14-year-old [...]

  • Animation Studio Fire

    Revenge Motive May Have Sparked Kyoto Animation Arson Attack

    Japanese media is speculating that revenge was the motivation for the arson attack on Kyoto Animation which killed 33 people on Thursday. Investigative sources quoted by Jiji Press on Friday said that the man in custody had a grudge against the studio. “Since [the studio] stole my novel, I poured out the liquid and set [...]

  • Terminator: Dark Fate Gabriel Luna

    'Terminator: Dark Fate' Cast Proud of Latinx Representation in Latest Installment

    The stars of the Tim Miller-directed “Terminator: Dark Fate” stormed the stage of San Diego Comic-Con’s Hall H on Thursday, but it wasn’t until after the panel — which included appearances from Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton — that Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna and Diego Boneta reflected on what makes the upcoming installment in the [...]

  • It

    Producer Sues Warner Bros. Over 'It' Film Adaptations

    A producer who developed the original “It” TV miniseries sued Warner Bros. on Thursday, alleging the studio breached his contract by making the films “It” and “It Chapter Two” without him. Frank Konigsberg and Larry Sanitsky were running Telepictures in the early 1980s when they acquired the rights to the Stephen King novel. They developed [...]

  • Animation Studio Fire

    Kyoto Arson Attack: Animation Community Mourns Colleagues

    Thursday’s deadly attack on Japan’s Kyoto Animation studios left many in the animation community shocked and horrified by the loss of 33 of their colleagues. Another 36 people were injured in the attack, which was Japan’s deadliest ever. A suspect was arrested after pouring a flammable liquid inside the building, which caught fire and trapped [...]

  • Nicolas Cage

    Film News Roundup: Nicolas Cage's '10 Double Zero' Completes Financing

    In today’s film news roundup, financing has been secured for a Nicolas Cage police drama, feature drama “Topside” is unveiled and the late Tom Snyder is getting a tribute from his daughter. FINANCING COMPLETED DCR Finance Corp. has signed a deal to complete the financing for Nicolas Cage’s upcoming crime drama “10 Double Zero.” The [...]

  • Matt Damon and Tom McCarthy Team

    Matt Damon Teams with 'Spotlight' Director Tom McCarthy on New Film (EXCLUSIVE)

    Even as buzz grows for his upcoming race car drama “Ford v. Ferrari,” Matt Damon looks to keep the pedal to the metal: the A-lister is set to star in the Participant Media feature film “Stillwater” with Tom McCarthy directing. Damon attached himself in May, and the package was quickly acquired by Participant, who previously [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content