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Review: Morris from America

Markees Christmas stars in A24 Films' MORRIS FROM AMERICA

The “coming of age” tale is a pretty normal type of story that’s been seen for ages in entertainment. We know how they begin, we know how they end and I’d imagine that we can figure everything in between. While that kind of formula can still be amusing, something like Morris from America offers what can be seen as a different take on the familiar form.

Morris Gentry (Markees Christmas) is a 13 year-old aspiring rapper who moves with his single father, Curtis (Craig Robinson) to Heidelberg, Germany. It’s hard to make a future as a gangster rapper in a place like that, but it proves to be even harder for the young man when he tries to fit in and falls for Katrin (Lina Keller), a 15 year-old with a rebellious reputation. Now, along with his desire to be a big hip hop artist in the future, he needs to find a way to make his mark in his new hometown while also winning the heart of the girl he  has his eye on.

As I watched Morris from America, I found myself wondering where it was going at times. I also wondered what message it was trying to convey to its audience. I had some trouble getting a grasp on that stuff for a bit, but after some thought and watching it straight through, I came to realize that it’s a simple coming of age story about a short period in a kid’s life.

I don’t mean simple like uncomplicated. What I’m saying is that it’s dealing with something that we are all forced to cope with during our time on Earth. Instead of this being some grand tale with wonderfully perfect characters who can make everything work out in their favor, we’re given people who are searching for whatever it is life is offering them. That’s even the case for the characters like Morris who don’t exactly know what it is that they’re chasing.

This approach here is one of the more realistic kinds you’re ever going to find in film. Doing it this way allows for us as viewers to attach ourselves to Morris and maybe even some of the other players in the game. Like these people, we’ve all been on various searches for meaning, satisfaction and happiness. Like life, the start of this isn’t incredibly focused but as it continues to move forward things become clearer. This helps in making both the film and Morris grow before our eyes.

As he moves around trying to figure things out, everything that surrounds him is living, breathing and changing within its own space. It’s once again what we all experience. It just so happens that sometimes the space that the people around you occupy comes into contact with you and your space. Once that happens, the learning can truly begin. This is the period when you develop and become what you’re going to become. For film, this is the journey, and the most important part of a picture. I didn’t see Morris from America like that at first, but thinking back on it showed just how simple and lifelike it is.

Looking at what Morris from America is, you have a quality movie of substance that proves to be one of the better feature films about growing up that you’re going to see in terms of actual development and growth of a character. There are some flaws, but it’s the kind of film that somehow leaves you wanting more. After watching it, you may find yourself wanting to join Morris on his journey toward the future that awaits him even if that’s not the most important part of the movie. I usually hate that in film, but here, I think this ending is a fitting ending that doesn’t need more.

Rating: R

Director: Chad Hartigan

Craig Robinson
Markees Christmas
Lina Keller
Carla Juri

Film Length: 89 minutes

Release Date: September 2, 2016 (Limited)

Distributor: A24 Films

  • Score - 7.5/10
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