Virtually plotless, writer-director Jim McKay’s Our Song ambles on like life itself, a series of small crises on the way to an ambiguous future. Like his last film, Girl’s Town, it focuses on a group of teenage girls, this time in the black and Latino milieu of Crown Heights in Brooklyn. MacKay, who is neither black nor Latino (nor a teenage girl) has a nonexploitative affinity for his subject, a feeling for both the pressures and pleasures of adolescence, and the tenuous bonds that young people make on the way to forging their identities.
This is one of those movies where you’re not so much told a story as asked to spend some time with a few characters, an approach very dependent on subtle writing and acute performances, both of which are present here. Of his trio of protagonists, Lanisha (Kerry Washington) is the watchful one, the one who will escape her situation; Maria (Melissa Martinez), already pregnant though still encased in her baby fat, has an incipient moroseness which could lead her down the victim path; Jocelyn (Anna Simpson) is the well-adjusted one, with a lively curiosity.
All three girls are part of a marching band, the Jackie Robinson Steppers (a real group), which allows McKay to punctuate his film with some kinetic footage. The movie is naturalistic without any heightening bleakness, which is both its main virtue and its one fault; McKay’s anecdotal approach is admirably restrained but ultimately shapeless. Still, you can trust him to avoid dramatic clichés and if the accumulation of unresolved situations becomes a little wearying, well, that’s the way things are.
Showing exclusively at the Detroit Film Theatre (inside the DIA, 5200 Woodward, Detroit), Friday through Sunday. Call 313-833-3237.
Richard C. Walls writes about the arts for Metro Times. E-mail him at email@example.com.
We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.
Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.
Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.
Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.