I'm a native Washingtonian, so when I read the description of this film I knew I had to see it. I thought it might be a nice little indie film in the tradition of Money Matters from Ryan Richmond a few years back.
This movie is not like that at all. I really wanted to like it, but there wasn't a whole lot that could save it.
I will start with some positives though: I like that it is technically a period piece. The characters are close to the age I would have been in the 90s, so it felt somewhat familiar. The costuming was fairly accurate, too, especially for the young ladies.
I liked how several of the actors had strong DC accents, but I wish this was consistent across the board. The inclusion of go-go music was a nice touch! Definitely added to the authenticity of it being set in DC. Finally, I loved how they filmed at Takoma Station Tavern--a music venue and bar well-known to Washingtonians, especially Uptowners.
Now for the three things that killed the movie: script, acting, and cinematography.
The most interesting part of the film, to me, was the last five minutes. No spoilers, but I would have watched a film based on that scenario alone. Instead, however, the filmmaker introduced a BUNCH of characters who were just shy of being interesting enough to care about and keep up with through the movie. In fact, the most interesting character to me (Misha) is not even seen much in the last 15 minutes of the film.
The script also does a lot of telling and not showing. The filmmaker would benefit from studying Barry Jenkins. Although Jenkins probably shows a little too much, Sunny would have been improved by characters talking less and doing more.
The acting... the character "Sunny" was the most believable, followed by Dolo and some of the other corner boys. But many of the leads were just not that strong to carry such heavy moments.
The actually shooting of the movie wasn't terrible. I fully understand low-budget film-making and I support it. I just wanted Sunny to have tighter shots in the more intimate scenes and wider shots on the establishing scenes.
I KNOW that this filmmaker will have stronger movies as he continues in his career. I fully get and support the idea of telling stories of people of color in the city, especially this city. And I support giving actors a chance. I hope the next project is better resourced so the best of our local talent can get a chance to shine in a vehicle just as creative as this one.