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Southside with You

Good “date movies” are really hard to come by nowadays. They all just end up being predictable rom-coms with overused story structures. The ‘walk and talk’ film that Richard Linklater brought about with his Before trilogy, hasn’t really been exploited, or even imitated until now with Southside with You.

Southside with You is the story of the first date between Michelle Robinson (Tika Sumpter) and Barack Obama (Parker Sawyers). It takes place in 1989 Chicago, and it follows the couple through their first get-together (although Michelle is very reluctant to call the outing a “date”) as they navigate around the city; they visit an art exhibit, take a walk through the park, attend a community congregation, have some drinks at a bar, and even catch a movie. It’s an incredibly sweet film, although sometimes it goes for candy answers rather than more rational and subtle responses.

It’s interesting that the first film incarnation of the first black American president is a date movie. It is maybe because of its small and simple premise, that our characters seem incredibly three dimensional and rich with layers. I have to commend the incredible actors Sumpter and Sawyers who shine by lending their characters a subtler aura that the script had somewhat ignored. It was also relieving to see the duo shy away from imitation, and focusing more on an emotional portrayal, it’s rare that biographical films today make that decision.

But the main flaw in the film was the script. Most of the dialogue flows well between the characters (also helped by the cast’s chemistry), but I felt that some parts were a bit too over-expository, and, as mentioned before, the script sometimes chooses to go for the saccharine moment rather than have intuition help the audience. The story itself also flowed a bit awkwardly; the “walk and talk” structure was fine, it was the best thing going for the film, but I felt that the changes of setting didn’t flow whatsoever, each scene seemed to jut out spontaneously. This could well be more of an editing problem as much as a script one, but because of it the pacing seemed to be a bit all over the place.

However, the film is sweet and enjoyable, and certainly short enough that its few misgivings don’t really dig deep into the mold. It’s good to see that the romance genre hasn’t gone completely down the tacky path.



About Young Critic

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I've been writing on different version of this website since February of 2013. I originally founded the website in a film-buff phase in high school, but it has since continued through college and into my adult life. Young Critic may be getting older, but the love and passion for film is forever young. 

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