May 2001
Film Review : Our Song

by Wilson Morales (New York)

Film Review - Our Song

Distributor: IFC Films
Director: Jim McKay
Screenwriter: Jim McKay
Running Time:  96 minutes
Cast: Kerry Washington, Anna Simpson, Melissa Martinez, Marlene Forte, Ray Anthony Thomas, Rosalyn Coleman, Carmen Lopez, and the Jackie Robinson Steppers Marching Band

In today's world, movies of all genres never surprise the audience.  Most plots are contrived to fool us or to get our attention.  Currently, in the teenage market, all films carry the same plots; romance and lots of tomfoolery - never dramatic. There hasn't been a film where one could really think back to their childhood, until now.  A few years ago, Jim McKay directed a small film, “Girls Town,” which exploited the troubled lives of teenage girls.  That film showed a sense of realism.  Now in his next feature, “Our Song,” McKay once again excels in showing the realism of teenage girls growing into adulthood.

"Our Song" follows three teenage friends, Lanisha (Kerry Washington), Maria (Melissa Martinez), and Joycelyn (Anna Simpson) through the August streets of Crown Height, Brooklyn.  During the closing weeks of summer, these girls endure rigorous rehearsals with their sixty-piece marching band, while biding their time shoplifting, daydreaming, flirting with boys, and confronting the rising tensions within their own friendship.  When the girls learn their school is closing due to asbestos, each has to make a decision about the future.  While they contemplate going back to school, getting a job, and dealing with other issues, they gradually move into adulthood. Through it all, their song "Ooh Child" remains one of hope and dreams.

What makes this film about friendship great is the level of realism it incorporates.  As kids and teenagers, friends do lots of things together, whether it is sleeping in each other's house, borrowing clothes, and even going to school together.  But as the days and years go by, friends grow older and learn a lot more about life.  Some make good decisions while others don't.  It's all part of adulthood.  One could see this film and realize that there's nothing contrived about the ways these girls change.  The acting throughout the cast is excellent.  Washington, Martinez, and Simpson all convey realism through their emotions.  Each actress is a newcomer to the film world, and McKay must be commended for discovering their talent early.  The script is intelligent and poignant.  Some may read those lines and say that was them years ago. The film was actually shot in Crown Heights, Brooklyn to give it a real flavor and the use of the marching band to score the theme and title of the film is superb.  As the summer approaches with many Hollywood blockbusters coming our way, this film won't probably play at many multiplexes.  If this film is in your area, go and see it today because you rarely get great films nowadays.  

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