Stars: Kelvin Harrison Jnr., Lucas Hedges, Taylor Russell, Alexa Demie, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Sterling K. Brown
Writer-director Shults aims high with this South Florida-set drama but struggles in vain for universalism and profundity. The first half profiles Tyler (Harrison Jnr), a school wrestling star and all-round popular pupil from a solid upwardly mobile African American middle class background with a seemingly ideal life. His sole problem is his competitive dad constantly monitoring him and forcing him to work harder. When his girlfriend Alexis (Demie), finds out that she’s pregnant the shock sets Tyler off on a downward spiral resulting in tragedy. The second, far superior half of the picture, follows Tyler’s traumatised sister Emily (Russell) as she is wooed by goofy but amiable fellow student and Tyler’s former wrestling partner Luke (Hedges). The self-consciously poetic and dreamy feel, replete with blue-hued visuals à la Barry Jenkins’ ‘Moonlight’, fail to obscure the soapy melodramatic plotting. The latter half works much better thanks to winning performances and a real chemistry between the very impressive newcomer Russell, and the always great Hedges.