Movie Reviews: Morris From America




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Markees Christmas and Craig Robinson
    A24 (89 min.)
     An African-American teen struggles for acceptance after moving to the provincial city of Heidelberg, Germany. 
     Craig Robinson, Markees Christmas, Lina Keller, Carla Juri
Bottom Line:

Samantha Ofole-Prince

Photos Courtesy of A24

Modestly conceived and executed, this coming-of-age drama centers on 13-year-old Morris (played brilliantly by Markees Christmas) and his widowed father Curtis (Craig Robinson), as they adjust to life in Heidelberg, Germany after Curtis is sent there to coach professional football.

Sweet and nostalgic, it’s a seemingly simple story that’s bolstered by superlative performances by all the principal actors.

When we first meet Morris, he’s figuring out how to freestyle rap and fit in with a group of kids he feels he has nothing in common with. They listen to rave, he listens to rap, they assume he plays basketball, he doesn’t. Back in Virginia where he’s from, he’s used to seeing people who look like him and hanging out with like-minded individuals who share his love for hip-hop and Heidelberg is a hugely disappointing contrast. Outside of hanging out with his father, his only real social life is learning German from his teacher (Carla Juri) and he somewhat struggles for acceptance and identity.

This all changes when he becomes infatuated with the carefree 15 year-old Katrin (Lina Keller) who he meets at a local youth center. A wild-child with little regard for law, order and respect, Katrin smokes, drinks and parties on her own terms and is the only classmate who takes an interest in him. Flattered by her attention, Morris quickly falls for the teen who leads him on a decadent path.

There is no shortage these days of coming-of-age of dramas, but what sets this apart is the father/son relationship that’s sprinkled in. The scenes between Curtis and Morris are endearing and there’s some solid acting from Robinson, who we are more prone to seeing in comedies. The film’s biggest strength lies in its affectionate and honest portrait of their relationship -- a genre we don't seen much of on screen.

Likability is a key here in “Morris From America,” a film, which won two prizes at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Chad Hartigan (“This is Martin Bonner”) directs this unique coming-of-age comedy with an even pace adding. There is an easy camaraderie among its likable and charming cast, and a neat message about following your dreams and forging your own path.

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