4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A Hard-Hitting Coming-Of-Age Story That Leaves Some Of Its Most Compelling Characters Relatively Unexplored,
This review is from: Yelling to the Sky (DVD)
There is a rawness to the film "Yelling To The Sky" that is likely to evoke strong reactions with most viewers. At times humorous, at times brutal, this coming-of-age story from writer/director Victoria Mahoney has a palpable anger underneath its surface that really sets it apart from many comparable films. While I don't know enough about Mahoney to label this autobiographical in nature, there is a certain intimacy and truthfulness that make it feel like a cathartic self-examination of a life lived. While I appreciated this spirit, however, the overall experience ended up having less impact for me than individual components of the film. For my taste, some of the characterizations lacked definition. A drama about race, abuse, violence, and family dysfunction, "Yelling To The Sky" can be unrepentantly bleak. And as the central character spiraled out of control, I found myself as an outsider looking in on (and sometimes not believing) the harrowing circumstances before her.
The film opens with a brutal neighborhood attack as everyone seems aligned against Sweetness (Zoe Kravitz) and her friend, apparently because Sweetness comes from a mixed-race parentage. You don't get much explanation, really, but as the conflict is resolved--the film unleashes a powerfully visceral punch to your gut. From here, we get glimpses of Kravitz's home life. Her mother seems unstable, her father volatile, and her sister is in a troubled relationship. The screenplay never digs too deeply into the peripheral characters, we primarily see their actions through Kravitz's eyes. As she wants to fit in, poor choices and bad opportunities take her down an unpleasant road. Kravitz, thoroughly convincing as a girl becoming disconnected from her surroundings, isn't always as compelling as the troublemaker engaged in drugs, fighting, and other illicit behavior. A particularly unfortunate subplot involves Tim Blake Nelson as a caring teacher that she'll see in a new light. Just as all hope seems lost, though, the picture wants to affirm second chances. But it does so by redeeming certain characters that we didn't know enough about in the first place.
As a character study, I wanted a greater closeness and understanding of Sweetness and what went on in her mind. As a dramatic narrative, I wanted more information about the other major characters. Jason Clarke, as the father, has a great presence but I never knew who he was in any tangible way. Gabourey Sidibe (Precious) is relatively one-note in her performance as a bully who becomes a focal point of a vicious revenge plot. I did, however, love Antonique Smith as Kravitz's sister. She really captures the screen and I definitely wanted to follow her as she disappeared for large chunks of the movie. In the end, "Yelling To The Sky" is a well-intentioned movie that will likely connect with some. Mahoney has talent, some scenes are incredibly memorable. But, for me, the movie is a little muddled in its viewpoint. I felt that it should have shaken me to the core with its powerful story, but I remained remote as the picture never drew me into Sweetness' psyche. KGHarris, 2/13.