Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB. USA, 2018. Foley Walkers Studio, Snoot Entertainment. Screenplay by Rafael Casal, Daveed Diggs. Cinematography by Robby Baumgartner. Produced by Jessica Calder, Keith Calder, Rafael Casal, Daveed Diggs. Music by Michael Yezerski. Production Design by Tom Hammock. Costume Design by Emily Batson. Film Editing by Gabriel Fleming. Independent Spirit Awards 2018.
Daveed Diggs is on probation and is waiting his final days out in a halfway house, desperate to keep out of the kind of trouble that would extend his sentence or put him back in jail. He works as a mover with his childhood best friend (Rafael Casal, with whom Diggs wrote the script), whose volatile personality makes it clear that trouble is hard to avoid in their Oakland neighbourhood. As the last few days of Diggs’ probation count down, a series of events test his confidence and threaten to create a gulf between him and his friend: he witnesses a police shooting one night that causes him nightmares, Casal purchases a gun that causes a near-catastrophe at home, then their attendance at a friends’ party results in a violent incident that makes it clear how different their lives are. Both citizens of Oakland and best friends for years, it soon becomes painfully unavoidable that a white man’s being allowed to leave mistakes behind him is different than what a black man is permitted. Lest you think this means the film is moral pandering, the dense writing and superb direction move smoothly from high to low themes with a surprising amount of humour and energy. Diggs’ frustration with his ex-girlfriend and memories of the situation that got him arrested to begin with touch on deep issues of economics and racism, while Casal’s obsession with the hipsterization of his neighbourhood and what it reveals about his own conflicts about his identity provide lighter ruminations that blend beautifully, the chemistry between the two leads elevating the experience to something magnificent.