Our Song: a Review

Our SongRecently I have been watching more Independent Films. I have been spending my $5.50 to see movies that are produced by directors who don't want to create big name blockbusters, but who want their audience to leave the theater with more knowledge than they came with.

With big Hollywood movies you pay for the action, the love scenes and the happy endings but with indy films you pay to think about things. You pay to question the outcomes, to create your own conclusions and to interpret the film's meaning. But beware, independent films tend to be more passionate and infectious, so you might want to make sure you have a box of tissues the next time you see one. Which brings me to the latest Indy Film I've seen. It was called "Our Song".

"Our Song" was written and directed by Jim McKay, the director of the 1995 film "Girls Town." Like "Girls Town," "Our Song" is a story of three girlfriends. Lanisha (Kerry Washington), Maria (Melissa Martinez), and Joycelyn (Anna Simpson) have grown up in the same housing project and attended schools in Crown Heights, Brooklyn and are now all part of The Jacky Robinson Steppers, which is a community based youth marching band. The film follows the 15 and 16-year old girls through one hot summer as they rehearse with the marching band. Along the way, they make their way through a series of days filled with flirting, shoplifting, and hanging out, but also face a series of challenges as they develop into young women.

Near the beginning of the film, Maria finds out she's pregnant. Maria feels that having a baby wouldn't be too bad, if her family weren't already in such bad shape. But her father is in jail, her mother works two jobs, and she is already left to take care of her 10 year old brother. She is afraid of what may happen but at the same time she develops baby blues, and wonders, like many young women do, what it would be like to have a baby to love.

Joycelyn lives in a single-parent home and her mom works and parties a lot. She starts working at an expensive clothing boutique and talks about being economically well-off when she grows up. When two girls from work, who appear to be from wealthier families start to welcome her company, she starts spending more time with them and less with Maria and Lanisha. (It's almost like Joycelyn is looking for a way out of the projects and meeting these two girls is that way out.)

Lanisha's parents are divorced but she spends time with them both. She does well in school and spends a lot of time trying to keep her family and friends together. But she also falls stay in a relationship with boy who wants to be with her on his own terms and she sticks in the "relationship" hoping he will change.

Lanisha is definitely the glue that keeps the trio together. She sees all the issues affecting her and her friends. In one scene, near the end of the summer, we see her break down when she tries to talk with her mom about the changes she and her friends are going through.

Lanisha and Maria (who are both part Puerto Ricano) have a cultural connection. Maria's father doesn't allow Spanish to be spoken in the house so Maria has never spoken it. As the movie plays Lanisha teaches Maria different Spanish words and phrases as a way to share information and bond with one another.

Through out the movie the girls face many challenges. As summer rolls on they hang out in the park, and talk about their dreams and goals for the future As the season comes to a close, they learn that their high school is closing and the closest school is a long bus ride away. With all these obstacles, will the trio stay together or separate?

You are left to figure it out for yourself. The film comes to an abrupt end with Maria walking Lanisha to the subway on her way to an alternative school she is transferred to which an hour and a half away. We can assume Maria will have the baby and take time off of school, but even that is left open-ended. The story shows just how unpredictable one summer is in a young girls life, and in the end I was left thinking about how important it is to have friends you can depend on.

"Our Song" is a good movie. The actresses performances were very good and the acting which was extremely realistic and sincere. There were times when I felt like I could have been "kick'n it" with the characters on a wet bench, or walking through the hot and humid city park. But I did think that the movie was a little long especially if young people are supposed to be the audience.

There was a lack of action but a definite amount of predictability (a girl gets pregnant and drops out of school, a girl achieves her goals and finishes school, and the other drifts apart from the other two). There was also a very heavy focus on pregnancy. There also could have been more to show us why and how the girls were so bonded by this point in their lives. So much of that was assumed. I wanted to have a clear understanding of the girls history with each other. Furthermore The Jacky Robinson Steppers, who are great performers and did an awesome job, didn't fit into the rest of the film.

Like I mentioned earlier I enjoy watching some Independent films but I'm still getting used to the way they never have concrete happy endings. Sometimes they frustrate me and leave me asking myself "what just happened?"

I enjoyed the "Our Song." It didn't show me anything out of ordinary. But it showed me the lives of three girls in a way that was uniquely simple.

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