“What did I know of my heart before you gave it shape?” is the deeply poetic and perceptive question 17-year-old Ayanna (Zora Howard) poses in her personal diary in Premature, director Rashaad Ernesto Green’s gritty coming-of-age drama set in Harlem. Green directs his second feature from a screenplay co-written with Howard about a talented young poet heading to college who falls in love with an aspiring music producer (Isaiah/Joshua Boone) whom she discovers shares her deeply felt appreciation of the world. We see Ayanna experience her first big love and embark on a complicated and sometimes painful journey of self-discovery. Green is adept at portraying urban teen life that’s full of vivid dialogue and locations, rough and tumble relationships, angst-filled realizations, and ambition.
Premature distinguishes itself from other coming-of-age stories in the refreshingly raw, authentic way Green examines common themes about young love and evokes compelling, emotionally complex performances from his young cast. Howard is a great casting choice and delivers a breakout performance. She brings grace, beauty, vulnerability and passion to a character who finds herself on the daunting precipice of adulthood and must find the courage to make the transition. Her on-screen chemistry with Boone is palpable. When Isaiah surreptitiously reads excerpts from Ayanna’s diary, he’s impressed by her extraordinary talent and ability to put emotions into words. The eloquent lyrics Ayanna writes for Isaiah’s unfinished song reveal profound insights into the dynamics of their relationship and her growing self-awareness and emotional evolution.
Premature is an award-winning indie drama that will resonate with audiences long after the closing credits. Made on a limited budget, this black love story is skillfully directed by Green, who is definitely a director to keep your eyes on.