Monday, October 19, 2020

AFI Fest Spotlight: Really Love

I’m delighted to be covering a number of selections from AFI Fest 2020. The festival runs October 15th-22nd, 2020, and films are available to watch online during that time.

Really Love
Directed by Angel Kristi Williams
Festival Information

There are moments when people come into each other’s lives that can be extraordinarily influential and enduring. A chance meeting may occur when those involved are least expecting it, and when other factors in their lives leave them either open or closed to the idea of beginning a relationship. The mystery and excitement that comes at the start of a romance may not last, especially if what either party is sharing with the other isn’t actually their authentic self. The gradual fade of that façade can prove destructive to a relationship in its infancy.

Isaiah (Kofi Siriboe) is an up-and-coming painter eager to capture success, and a conversation at a friend’s show with a gallery manager (Uzo Aduba) gives him hope that it may soon happen for him. His attention is not fully on his work as he also can’t stop thinking about Stevie (Yootha Wong-Loi-Sing), a law student who he meets first at a showing and then again through friends. Their chemistry is obvious, and they begin spending a great deal of time together. As Stevie pursues her career aspirations, Isaiah’s mind returns to his work, demonstrating to Stevie that she may never be his first priority.

This film presents its central romance in an unassuming way, with Isaiah spotting Stevie from across the room and chatting her up without much expectation of anything more to come from it. When they meet again, it’s as if they’re old friends who have another chance to see each other, picking up from the brief introductions to move towards something concrete. Isaiah is a passionate person, and he conveys much of that energy towards Stevie, who is considerably less abstract about the way that she approaches the work she does and the way she lives her life. Those worldviews may indeed be incompatible, but it doesn’t change the strength of the emotions they feel for each other.

This film feels most emphatic because of its two leads. Siriboe’s energy makes Isaiah come alive, transmitting the creativity he expresses through his paintings to the way that he interacts with others, particularly the woman he sets his sights on at the gallery. Wong-Loi-Sing gives Stevie confidence and an appropriate sense of trepidation to tackle the world with caution, with her barriers down just enough to let someone else in. They anchor the feature directorial debut from Angel Kristi Williams that feels like a truthful and rightfully complicated portrait of how deep feelings truly manifest even when not everything is perfectly aligned.


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