We grow up hearing stories of love- fairytale romances, love at first sight, dream weddings- but what happens when love takes none of those forms? What happens when it is complicated, delayed, abrupt, or even painful? Does it still qualify as love? In Nefertite Nguvu’s debut feature film, “In The Morning,” love is anything but a neat fairytale. Over the course of one day, Nguvu charts the emotional anatomy of several interconnected relationships as they grow and decline.
In New York City, we meet a group of friends, including Harper (Kim Hill), Amara (JoNell Kennedy), Bly (Numa Perrier), Ravi (Hoji Fortuna), and Fez (Alzo Slade), for a daytime brunch celebrating the international departure of Harper. What appears to be a light meet-up quickly transforms into an intense dissection of their relationships and interpretations of love. The dialogue here is often poetic and literary to the point of seeming overt, but adds a sort of contemporary romanticism to the film, which works.
Meanwhile, lovers Zuri (De’Adre Aziza) and Leal (C.J. Lindsey) don’t make it to the festivities. In muted light and blue tones, they endure a turbulent relationship that goes beyond the screen. Their level of anger and annoyance toward one another struck me, like it had been built over years. Their performance was informed by a history of distrust, and the discomfort was palpable. The push and pull of unhealthy love, the intermittent passion followed by pain, was all very real and well-rendered in these performers, and stayed with me well after leaving the theater. It is here that the narrative peaks, as conflict goes beyond conversation into a stirring battle between two people.
Told in vignettes punctuated by text-based transitions, the characters and themes in the film are connected in interesting ways, though the dialogue between them often gives away more than it should. I wanted to see Cadence (Emayatzy Corinealdi) struggle with her role as “the other woman,” in Malik’s (Jacky Ido) life, as opposed to hear her talk about it. I also wanted to understand Leal’s distrustful ways beyond Zuri’s accusations, but the film is structured effectively as a sort of mood poem, relying heavily on present moments between the characters and their words and reactions to them.
Ultimately, Nguvu crafts each relationship and character as its own poem, evoking a certain emotion that is elevated by the cinematography of renowned image-maker Arthur Jafa. This is not a New York City of high contrasts, bright colors, and saturated tones. Images are a bit more subdued, muted, and crisp in this world. This is a New York City of reflection, friendship, pain, and ending, where fairytales don’t exist, but love exists thorn-like and persistent. As James Baldwin stated: “Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is growing up.”
Tomorrow, Thursday, April 20th, 2017, director Nguvu via the Production Company, Hollywood Africans, and Image Nation Cinema Organization, will partner to host an exclusive screening and limited New York City run of the multiple award-winning “In the Morning.”
“Sharing ‘In the Morning’ with audiences at film festivals has been incredible. Though this has been deeply fulfilling, I made this film with the hope that it would reach diverse audiences – including those who might not attend film festivals,” says Nefertite Nguvu. “Our film doesn’t fit within the narrow lens in which most films about Black lives are viewed and given our current socio-political climate, I know that expanding our narrative and telling our stories matters tremendously. After a successful festival run, sharing the film in Paris, Rome, South Africa and throughout the U.S. I am excited to now have the opportunity to connect our film directly with a much wider audience through partnerships with organizations such as Image Nation and our release on Video on Demand.”
In addition to the New York City run of the film at Image Nation, subsequent screenings will be held in Atlanta, LA, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Newark, N.J. “In the Morning” will also be available worldwide via Video On Demand on Amazon, Vimeo on Demand, Xfinity Streampix and VHX.
For showtimes and tickets for the film’s ImageNation run, click here.