×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

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

  • Pokémon Detective Pikachu

    China Box Office: Weekend Chart Dominated By Non-Chinese Films

    Unusually, all of the top five films at the China box office this weekend were non-Chinese. That’s a relatively rare occurrence, as audiences typically favor local films over foreign content. But it is one that may happen more often, as high-performing local titles become fewer and farther between due to production slowdowns. The lack of [...]

  • White Lie

    Playtime Boards Canadian Psychological Thriller 'White Lie' Starring Kacey Rohl (EXCLUSIVE)

    One of France’s leading sales companies, Playtime has boarded “White Lie,” a character-driven psychological thriller film from the promising new Toronto-based directors Yonah Lewis and Calvin Thomas. Now in post-production, “White Lie” is headlined by Kacey Rohl, who has been seen in hit TV series such as “The Killing,” “Arrow,” “Hannibal” and “Wayward Pines.” Rohl [...]

  • Cannes’ Focus CoPro’ Gives Push for

    Cannes’ Focus CoPro’ Gives Push for First-Time Features

    CANNES–Seven first-feature projects will be pitched to an audience of industry professionals at Focus CoPro’, an event hosted by Cannes’ Short Film Corner that will take place Tuesday May 21 at the Palais des Festivals. The pitching session, which is run in collaboration with Nisi Masa and the Pop Up Film Residency, was introduced last year [...]

  • Cannes: Star Alliance Movies Takes Wide’s

    Cannes: Star Alliance Movies Takes Wide’s ‘Blast’ for China (EXCLUSIVE)

    CANNES  —  Hong Kong’s Star Alliance Movies has pounced on all rights to China on “Blast,” a race against the clock thriller that marks the first full production from Wide, Loic Magneron’s Paris-based sales-production-distribution company. The deal, made against a background of slowing sales to China, represents the first pre-sale on “Blast,” which is now [...]

  • Brazil’s Cinemascopio, France’s Les Valseurs Team

    Brazil’s Cinemascopio, France’s Les Valseurs Team For Nara Normande, Tião’s ‘The Heron’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    CANNES — Recife-based CinemaScópio Produções and Paris’ Les Valseurs have teamed on “A Garça” (The Heron), the feature debut from Brazil’s Nara Normande, co-authored by Tião. Brazilian CinemaScópio is behind Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles’ Brazilian Western-thriller “Bacurau,” in competition at Cannes. Les Valseurs is also presenting Qiu Yang’s short “She Runs” at Critics’ [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content