'A' For Alpha


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

'A' For Alpha
"The themes are delicately handled and confrontations don't develop in the ways you might expect."

Harrison (played by Reggie Lochard, who also wrote) is a healthy young man living in a nice apartment with Vanessa (DeShawn White), the woman he loves. He ought to be happy and he knows it, but something is wrong. He lost his job and, unknown to Vanessa, is now working as a delivery driver, which just about pays for his afternoons in the pub. There's no impending financial disaster to worry about because she's a high earner, but that's part of what's getting to him. Every time he hangs out with his friends he's re-immersed in a culture which says that men should provide for the women in their lives and that it's shameful for a man to be doing women's work. He's struggling to hold onto his identity.

This isn't the kind of thing that most people think of when hearing the term 'toxic masculinity'. Nobody is behaving abusively. There's sexism in the men's banter - mostly unexamined, it seems - but not misogyny. The strength of the film lies in its subtlety. Although some aspects of the storytelling feel a bit forced, the themes are delicately handled and confrontations don't develop in the ways you might expect. There's still relatively little material looking directly at how traditional assumptions about gender affect men, and few films looking at masculinity which don't focus on extremes. There's also a racial dimension to the film because African American men have traditionally had to work harder to be respected as men.

At the heart of this are two beautiful performances, with natural chemistry between the leads which immediately makes us buy into their history as a couple. Vanessa's story is kept to the margins but presents its own challenge to any simple narrative of emancipation, as when she tries to persuade Harrison that starting at 5am and finishing at 9pm is a reasonable working day and necessary to get on in life. There's an aching sadness behind this, as when Harrison tries to disown his culinary skills because he thinks that cooking will be seen as feminine. Rather than simply highlighting a set of social problems, the film shows its characters trying to find ways of making relationships and friendships work despite them.

Screened at the 2021 Las Vegas Black Film Festival, 'A' For Alpha tackles its subject head on but remains a character-centred story with plenty of unique interest.

Reviewed on: 29 Apr 2021
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'A' For Alpha packshot
A man struggles to reconcile the reality of his life with what he grew up to think he should be doing as a man.

Director: Greg Cally

Writer: Reggie Lochard

Starring: DeShawn White, Reggie Lochard, David J Cork, Anthony Goss, Richard Manigat

Year: 2021

Runtime: 29 minutes

Country: US


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