Revelatory Realism: Our Review of ‘A Thousand And One’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - March 30, 2023
Revelatory Realism: Our Review of ‘A Thousand And One’

The damage of neglect leaves a trail of carnage that is impossible to comprehend…

A Thousand And One which is fresh off its Grand Jury Prize win at this past Sundance Film Festival has officially blown the doors off the race for the best picture of 2023 with something that is emotionally raw and resonant that you couldn’t look away from even if you tried.

Unapologetic and free-spirited Inez (Teyana Taylor) kidnaps her six-year-old son Terry from the foster care system. Holding onto their secret and each other, mother and son set out to reclaim their sense of home, identity, and stability, in a rapidly changing New York City.

With a debut feature from the streets of New York that evokes the memories and styles of filmmakers and storytellers like Spike Lee and Gordon Parks; A Thousand And One is an emotionally honest and gripping tale of the cycle of neglect that the African-American community endured in the wake of the Crack epidemic and in many ways is still enduring all across the United States and even the world.

Writer/Director A.V. Rockwell while certainly mining some themes that have been in explored in movies before, comes at it here with such a brutally sad and honest portrait of the mountains that young disenfranchised people (especially women of colour) have to go through when the woefully inept social system just doesn’t know what to do with them.

Rockwell shoots the hell out of this film allowing the city landscapes of this environment to feel overwhelming and engulfing for these characters that are doing everything that they can to just keep their heads above the proverbial waterline.  While she’s never using any cheap emotional storytelling ploys to evoke emotion, it pays homage to the importance of one’s inner life and purpose which even can come with the results of their own destruction.  It’s a story about being determined to survive and make a positive mark in a world that never once gave this community a chance to do anything at all.  It gets highlighted thanks to some very deft time jumps as we see her family in various stages and an incredibly evocative musical score which allows these moments in the concreate jungle of New York City seem more vibrant that imaginably possible.

Each scene is rife with a very intense emotional specificity that is rarely seen from first time story tellers and the level of perseverance we see from our lead to make something better out of the horrors she’s had to endure is simply magnetic.  No matter your gender or cultural makeup we can all relate to wanting to be something better then what the ever changing and evolving world has thrust upon us and find what is true to ourselves.  As much as anyone tries to pin it all down and quantify it, life is a moving target and sometimes it’s hard to keep up.

And in that spirit, while audiences may know Teyana Taylor through her music and dance career as a choreographer, it’s her name that none of us will be able to keep out of our mouths come awards season for the best of 2023.

As Inez, she is desperate determination personified.  She’s painfully aware of the life she’s lived and the things that she’s endured and will be every means necessary make sure that her legacy is that her loved ones after didn’t have to go through the same ordeals, even at the expense of her own hopes and dreams.

William Catlett and Josiah Cross are excellent as the men in her life who she’s simultaneously pushing away from because she knows none of them can change their nature but is also terrified of losing all at the same time.

There’s a line in this film that just might haunt me for the rest of my days…

‘Damaged People don’t know how to love each other…’

That’s not only sad and prophetic, but it’s also exactly what A Thousand and One is about.

In a demographic of America that has been broken down and stripped of so many basic human rights including the love and support of the family structure in some of the more disenfranchised communities that were ravaged by drugs, it makes the difficult realties of the need to love oneself all the more impossible to overcome and the realities of trying for something better, absolutely terrifying.

A Thousand And One isn’t about making a cultural or societal statement, it’s making a humanistic one about the need to have love and understanding for all the people around us which can only ever start when we find the capacity to love ourselves, something that is too easily forgotten.

  • Release Date: 3/31/2023
This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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