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Urbanworld 2014 Review: Nefertite Nguvu Captures the Emotional Complexity of Romantic Relationships in ‘In The Morning’

Urbanworld 2014 Review: Nefertite Nguvu Captures the Emotional Complexity of Romantic Relationships in 'In The Morning'

We grow up hearing stories of love- fairytale romances, love
at first sight, dream weddings- but what happens when love takes none of those
forms? What happens when it is complicated, delayed, abrupt, or even painful? Does
it still qualify as love? In Nefertite Nguvu’s debut feature
film, “In The Morning,” love is
anything but a neat fairytale. Over the course of one day, Nguvu charts the
emotional anatomy of several interconnected relationships as they grow and
decline.

In New York City, we meet a group of friends, including
Harper (Kim Hill), Amara (JoNell Kennedy), Bly (Numa Perrier), Ravi (Hoji
Fortuna), and Fez (Alzo Slade), for a daytime brunch celebrating the
international departure of Harper. What appears to be a light meet-up quickly
transforms into an intense dissection of their relationships and interpretations
of love.  The dialogue here is often
poetic and literary to the point of seeming overt, but adds a sort of contemporary
romanticism to the film, which works.

Meanwhile, lovers Zuri (De’Adre Aziza) and Leal (C.J.
Lindsey) don’t make it to the festivities. In muted light and blue tones, they endure
a turbulent relationship that goes beyond the screen. Their level of anger and
annoyance toward one another struck me, like it had been built over years.
Their performance was informed by a history of distrust, and the discomfort was
palpable. The push and pull of unhealthy love, the intermittent passion
followed by pain, was all very real and well-rendered in these performers, and
stayed with me well after leaving the theater. It is here that the narrative
peaks, as conflict goes beyond conversation into a stirring battle between two
people.

Told in vignettes punctuated by text-based transitions, the
characters and themes in the film are connected in interesting ways, though the
dialogue between them often gives away more than it should.  I wanted to see Cadence (Emayatzy Corinealdi) struggle with her role
as “the other woman,” in Malik’s (Jacky Ido) life, as opposed to hear her talk about it. I also wanted to understand
Leal’s distrustful ways beyond Zuri’s accusations, but the film is structured effectively as a sort of mood poem, relying heavily on present moments between the
characters and their words and reactions to them.

Ultimately, Nguvu crafts each relationship and character as
its own poem, evoking a certain emotion that is elevated by the cinematography
of renowned image-maker Arthur Jafa. This is not a New York City of high contrasts, bright colors,
and saturated tones. Images are a bit more subdued, muted, and crisp in this world. This is a
New York City of reflection, friendship, pain, and ending, where fairytales don’t
exist, but love exists thorn-like and persistent. As James Baldwin stated: “Love
does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love
is a war; love is growing up.”
 

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