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Stars: Sterling K Brown, Kelvin Harrison Jr, Taylor Russell, Lucas Hedges, Clifton Collins Jr, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Alexa Demie

Director: Trey Edward Shults

We should say right away that, whatever its merits, this is not a film to see if you're feeling depressed or even a bit down. It makes the average Ken Loach picture look like Singin' in the Rain.

The first half focuses on Tyler (Harrison Jr), the thoroughly dislikeable 18-year-old only son of a middle-class Afro-American family. Tyler, driven to be a champion school wrestler by his intense father (Brown), has rebelled. He's dyed his hair white, insults his parents in an expletive-filled barrage, is into drink and drugs and has got his girlfriend Alexis (Demie) pregnant.

He does accompany her to an abortion clinic, but, when she decides to keep the baby, Tyler goes berserk, leading to a tragedy that climaxes this part of the film.

The second, and more effective half concerns grief, estrangement and reconciliation, as Tyler's sister Emilly (Russell, 25 but convincing as a 16-year-old) becomes involved with a boy at school (Hedges, very bland) and helps him reconcile with his dying father.

Too many long-held shots of people driving along drag down the film's pace, but Drew Daniels' shimmering Technicolor photography is a considerable compensation, and most of the acting is pretty good, with Russell and Brown the pick. A scene they share together towards the end is the best in a film which nonetheless does take some sitting through.

The two-and-a-quarter hour runtime seems par for the course these days, although it really shouldn't be. Some key scenes here are deliberately not filmed in widescreen.

David Quinlan

USA 2019. UK Distributor: Universal. Technicolor.
135 minutes. Widescreen/not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 1, Swearing 3.

Review date: 12 Jan 2020