The summer I turned eighteen, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, a disease she would succumb to two years later. That summer, I also discovered my then-boyfriend had another girlfriend. I was spending the last summer of my “childhood” preparing to leave my home on the south side of Chicago for a brand new adventure in New York City. Desperate to begin my journey into adulthood, while also grappling with leaving behind everything I’d ever known, left me in an emotional tailspin. Unfortunately, this caused me to lash out at those closest to me. It wasn’t until I was all alone, several thousand feet in the air, my head resting against the airplane window that I began sobbing. Surrounded by hundreds of strangers, I finally surrendered to all of the emotions from the prior months that had threatened to leave me in shambles.
Based on a short film by Reel Works film student, Bilal Ngondo, Raafi Rivero’s “72 Hours: A Brooklyn Love Story?” follows 18-year-old Caesar Winslow (Melvin Mogoli), a Brooklyn native from the Kingsborough Houses. Caesar finds himself standing at the same crossroads I was at not so many years ago. A charismatic and egotistical young man, Caesar has the opportunity to leave Brooklyn behind and accept a full scholarship at a prestigious university. However, he soon discovers that saying goodbye is no easy feat. At odds with himself and his environment, Caesar’s longtime girlfriend Kaia also breaks up with him (for good reason), leaving him desperately trying to regain control over his life before his impending departure.
Told over the course of the 72 hours before he’s supposed to board the bus for school, Rivero unravels all of the different components that make Caesar who he is. An expert at navigating various worlds (while compartmentalizing his true feelings) his choices are often impulsive, showing little regard for the well-being of others. Anticipating his time in college and a new girl who has caught his eye, Caesar tries to move in one direction, while desperately attempting to hold onto Kaia. His emotions are further heightened because he is still grieving the loss of his beloved uncle.
There is a ton to sort out here. For me, the film opened feeling a bit off-kilter. However, Rivero is skilled at layering the intricacies that make up Caesar’s Brooklyn. From tension with his friends and rougher dudes in the neighborhood, as well as Caesar and his crew’s constant battle with the police, it seems like his world might implode at any moment. He’s constantly being pulled in a thousand different directions, and the audience can feel that uncertainty, as well as Caesar’s deeply guarded fear of moving on.
Interestingly enough, Caesar isn’t entirely likable. He’s sympathetic yes, but the decisions he makes and his unyielding nature shines through. His misogynistic and selfish tendencies are off-putting and yet real. His choices and his unwillingness to let go of Kaia force her to bear not just her own pain, but his as well. Caesar’s treatment of Kaia made my stomach turn more than once. And yet, Andrea-Rachel Parker’s performance as the heartbroken teen brought a ton of depth to her character. The anguish that she feels over Caesar’s philandering and abandonment torment her.
I’m not so far removed from my teenage years that I do not recall what that feeling of first love felt like. That feeling of having your world intrinsically linked and dependent on another person is what is beautifully captured in this film. Caesar’s Brooklyn is far from glossy and carefree, but it’s his home; a place full of people he’s not certain he can let go of. Though told through a distinctly male lens, “72 Hours: A Brooklyn Love Story?” is a gripping and sometimes an uncomfortable story about growing up and moving on. We can all relate to being torn between the place you’ve always known as you try and find the courage to move forward into the unknown future. Caesar has just three days left to make that choice and his decision, whatever it may be, will change him forever. As my mom once told me, “You can always go home”, but I’ve learned that you won’t return the same person you were when you left.
“72 Hours: A Brooklyn Love Story?” will screen next at the New Orleans Film Festival which will be held October 12-20, 2016.
Watch the trailer below:
Aramide A Tinubu has her Master’s in Film Studies from Columbia University. She wrote her thesis on Black Girlhood and Parental Loss in Contemporary Black American Cinema. She’s a cinephile, bookworm, blogger, and NYU + Columbia University alum. You can read her blog at: www.chocolategirlinthecity.com or tweet her @midnightrami