The Outside Story
Starring: Brian Tyree Henry, Sunita Mani, Sonequa Martin-Green, Olivia Edward, Asia Kate Dillon, Maria Dizzia
Directed by Casimir Nozkowski
The one unmistakable advantage of this film about being seriously disadvantaged is its cast and crew.There is a clear and present celebration of diversity here. The lead is a black American man who gets locked out of his own apartment. The cast also includes a non-binary actor and an Indian actress Sunita Mani who plays a colour blind role.
Sunita plays a cop named Slater whose gender is never an issue. I don’t think her being brown or of Indian origin has any relevance to her presence in this film about a very strange kind of temporary homelessness. Not like what Richard Gere played in the 2014 film Time Out Of Mind.
Hey, this is more serious! Brian Tyree Henry as Charles gets locked out of his own apartment. Charles, we gather, seldom steps out of his home, not because there is a lockdown(I think this film was shot before Covid, although going by its lack of social warmth and interactive grace,one could easily be fooled) . But because he spends all his time on the sofa or on the computer writing obituaries(referred to by the Indian actress playing he cop as ‘eulogies’) for celebrities who are not dead.
Well, I can think of a one-word obituary for this film. RIP: Rest In Progress. There is something unfinished, half-hearted in Charles’ adventures in his neighbourhood street as he is locked out in his socks. From the neighbours that he meets,many of them for the first time(this is not something we need to disbelieve as it happens in Mumbai all the time), the most interesting bonding is formed with the little girl Elena(Olivia Edward) who wants to be a concert pianist.
I wish this film focussed on Charles and Elena, the one who wants to be the king of his own destiny and the other who wants to play music. In the two roles Brian Tyree Henry and Olivia Edward work well together. There is definitely something there,sadly unexplored. Like everything else in this footloose and centrefree tale of temporary homelessness.
Director Casimir Nozkowski has assembled an interesting cast to play characters who are halfway adrift, but too bored or tired to do anything about it. Charles has just broken up with his live-in girlfriend (Sonequa Martin-Green).He wants her back desperately. The best episode in this colourless colour-blind neighbourhood story is at the end when Charles’ girlfriend turns up to take away her things. He bamboozles her with his conviction that she must move back in.
At the end The Outside Story locks itself out from any serious exploration of relationships in a metropolitan suburb. It could have said so many things about diverse communities co-existing in the American cauldron. Instead this film pretends to be busy elsewhere.