Welcome to this week’s installment of FilmStruck Friday! Every Friday here on TMP (with the exception of the first Friday of the month), you’ll find a review of a movie available through TCM and Criterion’s FilmStruck streaming service. Today, a story of three young women growing up in Brooklyn: Our Song (2000). Happy viewing!
Lanisha (Kerry Washington), Maria (Melissa Martinez), and Joycelyn (Anna Simpson) are high schoolers in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
As summer break begins to wind down, the girls split their time between hanging out with each other, working (Marie and Lanisha at a bakery, Joycelyn at a boutique), and practicing with their marching band, the Jackie Robinson Steppers.
When they get the news that their school won’t be reopening int the fall due to asbestos contamination, their already-complicated lives become even more so.
Our Song was written and directed by Jim McKay.
Our Song offers a coming-of-age, a story of friendship, and an exploration of some of the problems faced by young people living in the city. Such topics as absentee parents, teen pregnancy, and underfunded schools in disrepair are covered with sensitivity and honesty.
I didn’t expect to like this film as much as I did. It was written and directed by Jim McKay, whose work I was unfamiliar with prior to watching this film. While there are plenty of skilled writers able to step outside of their own experience, I was skeptical that McKay would be able to capture the experience of what it’s like to be a teenage girl.
In my experience, these stories are more effective when told by women. McKay, however, managed a pretty authentic portrait of youth at the turn of the 21st century and of young female friendship. To say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement.
That friendship which rests at the heart of the film, between the three central characters feels very natural and real. All three actresses give strong performances.
Particularly of note is Kerry Washington in her very first film role! Save the Last Dance was a childhood favorite for me, and I continue to admire her work, so if you’re a fellow fan of Washington it’s certainly worth tuning in to see her debut. She does very well with her role here and it’s easy to see why her career took off.
Fantastic marching band performances add a little something extra to the viewing experience, performed by the Jackie Robinson Steppers. My favorite of these scenes was the band’s version of Lauryn Hill’s “Doo Wop (That Thing).”
Our Song is a special film, with several scenes that have stuck with me long after watching. Recommended, especially if you enjoy independent dramas or stories of female friendship.