All Day and a Night

 

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A hard-hitting, authentic Netflix drama recycles the violence-breeds-violence mantra.

   
All Day and a Night

Boy in the 'hood: Ashton Sanders

 

Before the opening title, Jahkor Lincoln has forced his way into the home of a man and his girlfriend and, in front of their ten-year-old daughter, shot them both dead. Why? That is the prevailing question and it takes two hours to reach some kind of pat resolution. Jahkor was brought up in a tough neighbourhood of Oakland, California, and encountered ingrained violence on the street, in school and in his own home. It was all he knew. So, rather than rise above the world that informed his every waking moment, Jahkor bottles up his anger and joins the club. That may be a fact of life for many young men in Jahkor’s shoes, but it hardly makes for enlightening drama.

 

All Day and a Night follows in the wake of a slew of films that exposes the underbelly of the black American world, and it does so with authenticity and resolve. Within its first quarter hour, the film asserts its hard-hitting agenda, with profane language, drug-taking and uncompromising violence. Ten years ago, these minutes alone would have earned it an 18 certificate. Now, it seems, all this is par for the course.

 

The problem is that Jahkor exhibits no remorse for his actions and with what is primarily an introspective performance, the actor Ashton Sanders (the teenage Chiron Harris in Moonlight) is given little human ammunition with which to warrant our sympathy. Only his nascent talent as a rap artist reveals a softer side to his nature and while he is never manifestly psychotic, he is first disowned by his pregnant girlfriend (Shakira Ja'nai Paye) and then his mother (Kelly Jenrette), while his brutish father (Jeffrey Wright) is sent to the penitentiary for life.

 

Besides lacking a charismatic, central protagonist, the film is in want of a muscular storyline. Divided into three parallel time frames, the drama attempts to explain why Jahkor is what he is and to lay the blame at the feet of the society in which he has been born. While this may be valid, if not admirable, it is hardly innovative. African-American cinema is congested with such tales of brothers, blood, braggadocio and bling and only more recent ventures have started to spotlight a less negative aspect of the black experience. The film’s writer-director Joe Robert Cole himself co-wrote Black Panther with Ryan Coogler, and while the latter box-office hit was an uneven and unwieldy affair, it broke new ground for how the black man was represented in Hollywood. Now that Cole has exhibited his chops as a director of some aptitude, he might next cook up something more socially ground-breaking.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Jeffrey Wright, Regina Taylor, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Isaiah John, Kelly Jenrette, Shakira Ja'nai Paye, Ashton Sanders, Jalyn Emil Hall, James Earl, Christopher Meyer, Stephen Barrington.

 

Dir Joe Robert Cole, Pro Adele Romanski, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, Screenplay Joe Robert Cole, Ph Jessica Lee Gagné, Pro Des Kay Lee, Ed Mako Kamitsuna, Music Michael Abels, Costumes Antoinette Messam.

 

Color Force/Mighty Engine-Netflix.

121 mins. USA. 2020. Rel: 1 May 2020. Available on Netflix. Cert. 15.