A THOUSAND AND ONE – Review by Jennifer Merin

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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.

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association in the Film, Documentary and TV branches and a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).