The structure of Barry Jenkins’s Medicine for Melancholy allows for a terrific twist right off the bat. Like many other modestly budgeted American indies, Jenkins’s film follows two people getting to know each other, as they wander an expressive cityscape, over the course of one day—aloofness gives way to intimacy, flirtation transitions into intellectual probing, daytime turns to night. The major difference here lies in the deployment sexual tension: this man and this woman aren’t looking to sex as the endpoint, for this day is already the aftermath of an anonymous one-night-stand. The goal, as it were, has already been met; now if they can let their defenses down there can be a more pure meeting of the minds.
It’s a neat trick that Jenkins’s feature debut begins the morning after. All we initially see of twentysomething Micah (Wyatt Cenac) and Joanne (Tracey Heggins) is some awkward stumbling amidst unforgiving dawn light: brushing teeth with fingers, a glaring lack of conversation as they pull themselves together. Not even aware of each other’s names yet, the two hurry out of the spacious, San Francisco mod loft they have crashed in, one which belongs to a friend, or perhaps just an acquaintance. It’s the first of three interior living spaces Micah and Joanne will occupy throughout the course of Jenkins’s film, each growing progressively smaller. Introducing these two, perhaps lost, young people within this anonymous apartment is an appropriate way to begin a story that’s as much about spaces and urban dwelling as it is about those who inhabit them.
Click here to read the rest of Michael Koresky’s review of Medicine for Melancholy.