Our Song

Our Song


Reviewed by: Symon Parsons

The teenage years of girls should be filled with mags, nail polish, music and romantic dreams. This is certainly the case in the film Our Song but it's as a sad counterpoint to the harsh reality of Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

Not that there isn't plenty of joy and laughter to be found in Our Song. The film bursts off the screen in its opening scene with an exuberance that will sweep you along. It tells the story of three girls, Lanisha - whose boyfriend has just broken up with her, Maria - who suspects she may be pregnant, and Joy - who fosters the dream of becoming a star. The three girls are also members of the Jackie Robinson Steppers Marching Band at school - but find themselves faced with serious decisions about their future when their school announces it is about to close.

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These decisions take on extra significance as the girls look around at failed marriages, teenage mothers, and lives system that doesn't appear to understand. This is contrasted with the romantic, dreams the girls have inherited fantasising about Michelle Pfeiffer coming to teach them, and listening to "our song" in which they are told that one day soon, life will be easier.

In the meantime, the girls have to face drifting friendships, unreliable parents and neighbourhood tragedy. It's a refreshing change that Our Song stays away from rites-of-passage cliches about growing up being neatly wrapped up in some magical defining moment. These girls will face continuing events that will change and affect them.

Shot in an unobtrusive style, the camera lets the girls tell their story themselves. It has an improvised, exuberant feel, but an underlying sense that once their childhood is over, these girls are going to face a harsh world indeed. In one poignant moment, one of the girls explains that she wouldn't be sad about dying, "It's like, today is a good day; I'm happy. It would be a sort of relief."

Our Song is an acheivement, an unromantic yet unpatronising portrait of life in Brooklyn. Writer/Director Jim McKay holds his girls up as heroines; too young for the harsh world they've been born into, their spirit survives. Whatever happens to them next (and the signs aren't good) that spirit is a triumph in itself.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Three teenage girls coping with growing up in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
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Director: Jim McKay

Writer: Jim McKay

Starring: Kerry Washington, Anna Simpson, Melissa Martinez

Year: 1999

Runtime: 96 minutes

Country: US


EIFF 2000

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