Morris From America full movie review - Strong performances and an interesting story
"Morris from America" or "Morris aus Amerika" is a German/American co-production from this year and there is also lots of English and German language in here as the action takes place in Germany, but the main character is American.
Just like his dad. I as a German was familiar with Löbau and Juri as well as Craig Robinson from the international cast. The writer and director is Chad Hartigan who has also acted in several projects in the past, but maybe this work here and the awards recognition it received so quickly will maybe encourage him to keep making more films in the future. The film runs pretty much exactly for 90 minutes, so it is neither too long or short really. The heart and soul of this one is really Markees Christmas, a definite contender for the best child performance of the year I think. He did really well here and I was as surprised as I was impressed. It's the story of a boy who lost his mother (before the film began) and who lives with his father somewhere in Germany.
A big part of the film is about the two being black. But I personally really did not feel this was the center of the story. There are some not so creative moments like the part about the marijuana or also comments like "Blacks are good dancers", but if you manage to ignore these few weak occasions, you will be in for a pretty good watch. It's a solid coming-of-age story about first love, even if unrequited, but also about friendship. I not only liked the way the title character was written, but also the way the big supporting players were written. Lina Keller plays Katrin and she feels very authentic. Not only do we see a strong performance, but we also see a character that has excellent shades. Early on, you still don't know if she is friend or for with the water gun scene and the Ecstasy reference, but she really likes Morris, even if not in a way he hopes she would. She definitely wants to be his friend and her struggles also have a lot to do with the problems she has with her own parents. She just wants to be loved and appreciated like most girls that age really, but the question if she is looking in the right places is eventually not answered because this movie is about Morris and not about her. And I really need to mention Craig Robinson, who proves here that he is also great with dramatic material, even if he keeps mixing it up with the somewhat entertaining approach he gives to Morris' dad. But the phone sex scene and also the speech at the end in the car show how good he is as these were some of the best moments of the film. It's nice to see he already won at Sundance for it and maybe more awards will follow. I would like it.
Overall, the film needed a bit to get going and really get me invested, but that's sometimes the case and the way you care for the characters around the 30-minute mark and afterward makes it a deserving watch I believe. The only major letdown here was probably Carla Juri, who not only plays a character that added almost nothing to the story (at least the way she portrayed it), but the approach she gave it (restrained yet hammy) was sometimes pretty painful to watch. I have seen the actress in other works in the past already and there is always something that rings fairly false to me. Also looking at what she starred in I always get the impression that she is all about rising on the career ladder and not really about giving convincing portrayals. But like I said, aside from her, the film is almost entirely a success. There are some great moments towards the end (the rap performance, the talk in the car, the letter) that I actually wished they could have gotten some of these in earlier in the film instead bringing us one after the other in the last 20 minutes, but it is all fine I guess. I certainly recommend the watch and this is finally a film about Black people that also offers something more than boring and uninspired race bait, maybe because it eventually is not about the characters' color at all. I certainly recommend the watch.