A Thousand and One, a compelling drama about a mother’s uncompromising love for her son. Teyana Taylor stars as Inez de la Paz who, newly released from incarceration on Riker’s Island for an unspecified minor infraction, locates her six year old son, Terry, who’s been placed in foster care, kidnaps him and goes on the run with him. Hiding with him in a rapidly gentrifying 1990s Harlem that’s still impacted by racial profiling and ‘stop and search’ law enforcement, Inez is determined to provide her son with a good and stable home.
Written and directed by A.V. Rockwell, the beautifully crafted narrative follows mother and son for the next decade, as they move from place to place, changing identities to evade authorities who would separate them and put her back in jail — this time for kidnapping. The son, now renamed Darryl and never allowed to mention or acknowledge his birth name, is a “good kid” who’s well liked by all and who does better than average in school. Inez is completely devoted to him, and works tirelessly as a hairdresser to provide for him. She’s doing a good job of it and it seems Darryl will have a bright future. But the stress of circumstance increasingly impacts their relationship, especially as Darryl reaches his rebellious teens.
Mother and son both know the danger of casual discovery of their real identities, but how long can they hide?
The performances by Teyana Taylor and the three young actors who play her son at different ages are compelling, complex and convincing. It’s impossible not to become invested in their welfare and, by extension, to consider the welfare of any and all kids who are systemically separated from loving parents for whatever reason. This theme is clearly one of concern in contemporary America.