Sunday, August 4, 2013

Noel Calloway's LIFE, LOVE, SOUL: one of the most important family films of the year

It's easy to understand why LIFE, LOVE, SOUL (terrible title, but the film's quite good) was chosen to inaugurate the first annual Fatherhood Image Film Festival, which begins tomorrow -- Monday, August 5 -- up in Harlem. It's all about fatherhood: one that went missing and another that's about to begin. The movie may come off like an After School Special made full-length (its concerns are baldly stated, though they grab us nonetheless), but there is simply no denying the importance of the situation the movie creates nor the strength of the performances that bring that situation to pulsating life.

Life, Love, Soul gives us the story of a talented seventeen-year-old honor student named Roosevelt (Rose, for short), played by terrific newcomer Robbie Tate-Brickle (on poster, center, above), living an elegant lifestyle in what looks like a very solid family situation, who suddenly has all this -- and pretty much everything else -- taken from him when tragedy strikes. Raised by his mom and barely ever knowing his father, he must now move in with that man and his wife.

The film's writer, director, producer and music supervisor, Noel Calloway (at left), may not yet fully understand how to meld his story and theme into something seamless, rhythmic and interestingly paced. Right now, he's all about just getting it up there on the screen. And he's done that -- while giving his actors some prime situations to negotiate, along with some very good dialog to help them do it. No surprise: They all rise to the occasion like the pros they are.

The mother of Rose and his younger brother is played by the gorgeous and energizing Tami Roman (above, of Basketball Wives), and though her screen time is short, she's commands it completely. Chad Coleman essays the difficult role of Rose's estranged father, who seems made of equal parts guilt, anger and buried love. Mr Coleman (below, of The Walking Dead and The Wire) is, by turns, scary, moving, immediate and real.

A new school provides a couple of other helpful people in our boy's life: a girl in his class going through a somewhat similar situation (the sweet, smart Mia Michelle, shown below with Mr. Tate-Brickle), and a teacher/counselor who takes a strong interest in his new star student (Jamie Hector, from The Wire).

Special mention should also be made of the sole white member of the cast, Tamara Faye, shown below, with Mr. Coleman, who plays Rose's stepmother, Jennifer, with great affection, patience and caring. It is her character who helps negotiate for both her husband and his son that tricky road toward detente.

While watching this film, it struck me that, although it is mostly a story about blacks, whose history makes clear the importance of a father figure in the lives of its young, the tale could just as easily be told about white families, or Latinos or people from many different cultures. According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics noted in the press release sent out about the film, 24 million American children — one in three — live in a home without the presence of their biological father.

While fatherhood is a subject vital to Life, Love Soul, so are some other themes and ideas: the importance of education to our young, the meaning of good parenting, and the question/choice of abortion. That last one could have been addressed more strongly here. While we all want to see life as the choice, this works best when there are supportive parents already in place. Otherwise you can end up with something closer to the Precious scenario.

Still, there are enough excellent things to recommend about this movie that I hope New Yorkers will take a trip up to the MIST Harlem Theater, located at 46 W. 116th Street, New York City, where Life, Love, Soul has been tapped as the opener for the first annual Fatherhood Image Film Festival, tomorrow evening, Monday, August 8, at 8 p.m. From the RBC Film Group, the movie is also set for DVD release later this month, on August 27, at major retailers, and will also be available on iN Demand and all other digital outlets, including iTunes.

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