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The Outside Story (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jul 18


Starring Brian Tyree Henry, Sonequa Martin-Green, Asia Kate Dillon, Sunita Mani, Olivia Edward, Michael Cyril Creighton, Maria Dizzia, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Matthew Maher, Hannah Bos, Jordan Carlos, Lynda Gravatt, Paul Thureen, Nadia Bowers, Diego Alvarado, Jorge Alvarado, Melanie Brook, Josh Chae and Hanna Cheek.

Screenplay by Casimir Nozkowski.

Directed by Casimir Nozkowski.

Distributed by Samuel Goldwyn Films. 85 minutes. Not Rated.

Sometimes, with little or no warning, you run across a small film that turns out to be a little gem. The Outside Story is one of those times.

The storyline is so simple as to be non-existent, and yet it opens up into a sweet and eccentric love note to modern lives and communities. In certain ways The Outside Story reminded me of a much less explosive version of Spike Lee’s breakthrough film Do the Right Thing, which introduces you to the citizens of a smart and vibrant New York borough and all of its diversity.

Of course, rather than a late-80s run-down Brooklyn, The Outside Story sets its sights on a post-gentrification new-millennium neighborhood in the same area.

Our tour guide on this trip is Charles (Brian Tyree Henry). Charles is a total homebody – he’s inching towards agoraphobia – who suddenly finds himself locked out of his second-floor apartment. He must wait around to be let back into his sanctuary, with no shoes, no ID, no phone charger and little money.

Charles has a spectacularly dead-end job – he edits celebrity obituary stories for TMC (Turner Movie Channel). His boss is on his back because an iconic actor is near death and he needs the video tribute for the moment that man dies, but Charles was obsessing about getting the video just right – and now his laptop is locked away out of his reach.

Charles has recently broken up with Isha, the one woman who seems to understand him (Sonequa Martin-Green), because he is jealous that she shared a curious kiss with a lesbian co-worker. He can’t call her to get the keys because he is still madly jealous.

Therefore he must sit around the stoop of his brownstone and wait on a friend (who he may have given an emergency key to, but Charles isn’t sure, nor is the friend), or his landlord (who is in another part of town caring for his mother).

Slowly but surely, he starts to meet and interact with some of his colorful neighbors – a sweet local widow, a shy little girl, an uptight traffic cop, a massively pregnant hipster woman, two little hoodlums with water balloons, the lady his girlfriend had kissed and her lesbian lover. Charles starts to learn more about them, their neighborhood, and his own life.

He starts to experience, in many ways for the first time, the wonders of his little neighborhood and its people; the restaurants, the shops, the parks, the art, the sidewalk sales, the camaraderie. He gets to know more of the back stories of people he’d have merely nodded to or actively avoided previously – if he saw them at all. He comes to question his life choices, his jealousies and his insularity. He even realizes that he doesn’t hate cats (although he is still very allergic to them).

Not much happens in The Outside Story, and at the same time, everything does.

The Outside Story is not so much plot driven as it is character driven. Still, a surprisingly robust number of things happens to Charles in the matter of hours that he is locked out of his home. There is even a very timely encounter with police violence, although happily it ends on a much more positive note than many of these situations do.

The Outside Story is a clever and sweet celebration of city life and will probably be a pleasant surprise for those coming into it with no clue about what they are about to experience.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2021 All rights reserved. Posted: April 29, 2021.

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