Southside With You is a love song to America’s first couple, Barack and Michelle Obama. In the fall of 1989, long before history anointed them, the pair met as colleagues at a Chicago law firm. Twenty-eight-year-old Barack (Parker Sawyers), Harvard graduate, summer associate, and secret smoker, has eyes for Michelle Robinson (Tika Sumpter), second-year associate, would-be-world changer, serious woman. She is his supervisor. He is her junior. At the outset of their day, Michelle is explicitly clear that this is not a date. And so, it begins. Read on…
A visit to an art gallery is followed by a community meeting, wherein the young Barack unleashes his eloquence and empathy. Michelle’s certitude begins to shift in the face of his passion. The rest of the non-date (a drink, a movie, and a lot of conversation) unwinds in easy fashion, and ends exactly as it should with a perfect, nay, legendary kiss.
Richard Tanne’s elegant film does not stray into the hagiographic, but maintains a level of calmness, and intelligence, buoyed along by extraordinary performances from the two leads. The future that is hovering in the distance for these two adds a certain frisson to the proceedings, but there is a great deal of pleasure to be derived from simply witnessing to two intelligent and charming people walk and talk to each other. It certainly worked a treat in Richard Linklater’s trilogy of films. Here it is leavened with a touch of reality, into something even more interesting, a genuine and humanizing portrait of a relationship, gossamer in its fragile beginnings, that will one day change, the world.
Just don’t expect a Republican rebuttal film anytime soon. Donald Trump’s three marriages and however many sexual indiscretions might have the makings of a good horror film, but a genuine heartfelt romance, not so much.
AWFJ Movie of the Week Panelists Comments:
Neil Minow: Southside With You is the falling-in-love movie most films handle with a pop song and a montage, smart, touching, lovely.
Candice Frederick: Southside With You: In a sea of white romantic dramas and comedies, it’s nice to see a romance film with black leads that sees them as human and not victims or political statements.
Title: Southside With You
Director: Richard Tanne
Release Date: August 26, 2016
Running Time: 84 minutes
Principal Cast: Tika Sumpter, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Parker Sawyers
Screenwriter: Richard Tanne
Production Companies: Get Lifted Film Company, IM Global
Distributor: Miramax, Roadside Attractions
AWFJ Movie of the Week Panel Members: Thelma Adams, Nikki Baughan, Anne Brodie, Candice Frederick, Pam Grady, Leba Hertz, Loren King, Cate Marquis, Jennifer Merin, Nell Minow, Perri Nemiroff, Liz Whittemore, Jeanne Wolf
Other Movies Opening the Week of August 15 to August 19, 2016
Edited by Sandra Kraisirideja, AWFJ.org Associate Editor. Written by Dorothy Woodend