Maddie Crichton ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
The reality of a first love is often filled with angst, naivety, and in many cases, is unrequited. Morris From America takes these painful realities and adds a sentimental and humorous lens, sobering the initial sting of young love.
Like many thirteen-year-old boys, Morris Gentry (Markees Christmas) struggles with two things: self-identity and talking to girls. But what makes Morris’s situation all the more difficult; he is an American living with his father (Craig Robinson) in Germany. He can barely break the language barrier, let alone make friends. But when he meets Katrin (Lina Keller), an older girl who is way out of his league, he begins to branch out and experience German teen culture.
Christmas’ performance captures the stiffness and awkwardness of a young teenager, but also adds complexity. He thinks before he says almost anything, giving a short, rigid pause before speaking in short, unrefined sentences. He demonstrates the moral conflicts of someone who wants to be a stupid kid like everyone else, but deep down knows better. And as his relationship unfolds with Katrin, he only becomes more raw. He knows that she exists in a world almost unattainable to him, but he innocently chases her anyways, hoping for more than friendship at every opportunity.
Keller plays off of his intrigue perfectly. We know so little about Katrin, other than the fact that she is rebellious and jaded, but she still remains interesting. Her defiant influences rope us along in a way that doesn’t necessarily make you like her, but makes you support Morris in going after her.
Robinson plays both a grounding and comedic force throughout Morris’s journey. With the German backdrop and German cast, their father-son relationship brings the story back to their American roots. They spend there time listening to rap music, and even making it themselves. They are both out of their elements, and their moments together create a sense of home.
The German scenery almost becomes a character in the film. Green mountains, majestic blue rivers, red rooftops, and historic castles and churches create a strong juxtaposition to the main character. While Morris is young, stuck, and confused, the world around him is grandiose, beautiful, and he actively cannot relate to it.
His language tutor Inka (Carla Juri) bridges him from his American stubbornness to this greater world. Like a wise older sister, or cool but stern aunt, she tries to get him to experience his potential new life, but does so without holding his hand. Their relationship is unexpected, which makes it one of the most fun to watch throughout the film.
Watching Morris come of age in a foreign country, and find his voice in a crowd of people where few want to hear it feels honest, harsh, and sweet all at once. Morris From America shows that young love can be brutal and awkward, but still charming. It is refreshing, smart, and looks at the struggles of youth through a new angle.
Overall Grade: A-
The Independent Film Festival Boston runs through May 4th. Visit iffboston.org for more information.