SUNDANCE REVIEW — “Premature”
What a sweet song
Premature is directed by Rashaad Ernesto Green, written by Green and Zora Howard, and stars Zora Howard, Joshua Boon, Michelle Wilson, Alexis Marie Wint, Imani Lewis Imani Lewis, and Tashiana Washington. It tells the story of seventeen-year-old Ayanna, who meets a handsome and mysterious outsider, Isaiah. Her entire world is turned upside down on her path towards self-discovery as she travails the rigorous terrain of young love the summer before she leaves for college. So, I had the pleasure of attending the Sundance Film Festival this year and the first film I got to see was Premature, and it was a pretty good start the fest. Premature is at times cliched but often overcomes those cliches with just how well executed it is.
Premature may at times be by the books, but the way Rashaad Ernesto Green directs, instead of feeling cliche or predictable, it feels genuine and honest. His direction is probably the strongest aspect of Premature. He spends most of his time really developing these characters and making the world feel lived in and tangible. Ayanna’s “coming of age” takes a back seat here and Green focuses almost entirely on developing her relationship with Isaiah. The movie lives and dies on believing their love and for the most part, we definitely do. I’d compare this to something like If Beale Street Could Talk, and while this is nowhere near as good as that film, they both have a lot going on, but at the heart of the story are these two people who genuinely love each other. As far as Green’s script goes, there’s a lot to be desired. He penned the script with star Zora Howard, and this is probably the weakest aspect of the film. There’s nothing really new or unique about the story and while it’s not entirely predictable, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. At times, the dialogue is incredibly natural and almost feels like we’re watching a documentary, but there are moments where it feels like something out of a screenwriting 101 class. Not to say the dialogue is bad, it’s often very poetic, but it doesn’t sound natural, especially compared to some of the incredibly real scenes featured alongside them. Overall, the script is by no means bad, but Green’s very emotional and gentle direction oftentimes the film from itself.
All of the acting present in Premature is really great. Zora Howard does a great job and delivers just shy of a star-making role here. Her performance is strong and really holds the movie together. Her group of friends are delightful. When I mentioned the incredibly realistic dialogue, this is what I was referring too. These characters feel remarkably real and grounded and never once felt phony or acted. Joshua Boone does a good job as well, delivering a very restrained, but surprisingly emotional performance. He is given a majority of the cheesy dialogue unfortunately but he does his best to make it sound convincing and not hammy. Any time the acting falters, it’s mainly because the dialogue their given is incredibly on the nose. These characters will frequently say their exact motivations and feelings, and while what their saying is very interesting and compelling, it feels very out of place. Overall, the acting is a delight to watch.
On a technical aspect, Premature is actually pretty great. This was shot on film, so the images are crisp and raw. The cinematography is very strong and being that this takes place in New York, there are tons of great shots to be seen. The score, while simple, is very well done and often greatly complimented the scenes. It never overbears the scene and I found myself wanting more of it. The editing is sharp and the color pallet utilized works greatly for the film. Also, as stated at the top of the review, there is a great original song featured in the film. Overall Premature does a very good presenting itself. That statement kinda sums up the entire film nicely. Everything here is very well done and by definition this is a very good movie, there’s just nothing really remarkable about it. I don’t have much to say, because it doesn’t give me much to talk about.
In short, Premature is a very well done film that is able to able to move past its shortcomings with its strong direction and powerful performances. 3/5