This is Darien Sills-Evans’ second feature in the director’s chair. It’s his third feature as writer. Here, he also stars as a young, black man telling the story of his relationship with a young, black woman. He opens his film as if inspired by Spike Lee. A poet speaks directly to camera, addressing issues that Lee has addressed about his beloved Brooklyn where this film is also set. The poet speaks about gentrification and the tensions, mostly racially based. While there are some racial undercurrents present, this film isn’t about race in any kind of fundamental way. This film is about a singular relationship, what draws two people together and specifically what pulls them apart.
Sills-Evans plays Nate, a tall, skinny guy who has a way about him that reminds me of Dave Chappelle. His personality, way of speaking and sense of humor aren’t that far flung from Chappelle’s style or way of being. Nate moonlights as a DJ, but his day-job is at a barber shop. The actual place of Duckett Barber Shop on Nostrand Avenue is the real-life location used. He works alongside three other barbers who talk crap about anything and anyone, which is of course a long tradition in the African-American community.
From Coming to America (1988) to Luke Cage (2016), barber shops have always been places for relationship discussions, work discussions and just life discussions. Movies and TV shows have depicted these places as respites for black men, a spot where they can vent or seek support. They’re generally filled with colorful characters from the surrounding neighborhood. Sills-Evans’ depiction here is no different. Nate vents to the three other barbers, as he tells about his recent girlfriend and his troubles with her.
Devin Nelson co-stars as Melissa, the aforementioned girlfriend. Melissa is a sixth-grade teacher who loves tea. She breaks up with Nate after five years together because she suspects him of cheating on her with various women. She’s a strong and dominant woman. She’s slightly reminiscent of women from Spike Lee’s films. I also felt similarities to the titular character in Hav Plenty (1997). That film was about two people already broken up who perhaps flirt about getting back together. Here, Melissa has decided to leave Nate with no going back.
The movie operates in two concurrent timelines. The first is Nate in the barber shop reflecting on what happened. The second is Melissa on the day she moves out of Nate’s apartment. The third starts toward the middle of the film and shows how Nate and Melissa first met and the evolution of their relationship. The majority of the film is the second timeline, which confines Nate and Melissa in the titular apartment, as they debate Nate’s fidelity and Melissa’s trust. It’s angered. It’s frustrated. It’s loving. It’s also freeing. The performances from the two are very tight and in close quarters like boxers in a boxing ring and both come away with knockouts.
Not Rated but contains language and sexual references.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 23 mins.