Blallywood Film Review: Red Hook Summer
The latest installation in Spike Lee’s series of movies chronicling life in Brooklyn is an insightful coming of age story about a young boy from the suburbs of Atlanta sent to live with his religiously zealous grandfather for a summer. They clash from the start. Flik is sullen and unimpressed from the start and his disposition is exacerbated by his grandfather’s old-fashioned ways. Though they share a bloodline, they are different in virtually every imaginable way. Flik, played by Jules Brown, is a proud vegan, wears the latest gear, and sports a fro-hawk. Enoch, played by Clarke Peters, is pastor of a small church in Brooklyn called Little Heaven. Flik’s summer is softened by the likes of a delightful girl in the neighborhood named Chazz (Sumayya Ali). Their friendship allows him to open his heart and experience his surroundings for what they are and for what they can teach him. The plot thickens in a gripping scene at the church when a visiting member accuses Enoch of molesting him as boy.
With the movie industry recently flooded with the likes of Madea and contemporary urban relationship drama, it’s refreshing to see an old master back at bat. Spike Lee’s classic style and vivid visual palate are stunning. The film has an absorbing pedestrian feel. The cameraman seems to walk among the players, giving the movie an immediate and almost documentary point of view. What the actors seem to lack in style, they make up for in authenticity. They feel like real people and nothing seems forced, unbelievable, or extraneous. A standout among the actors would be Coleman Domingo, the mysterious visitor who disrupts the church service with accusations of molestation. He exhibits a rage and tragedy that simply stops the movie in its tracks.
Not without Lee’s typical explicit exploration of theme through dialogue, there’s an interesting discussion presented here. The idea that the old school method of discipline is no longer sufficient in preventing the effects of external pressures on the adolescents of today.
Though the film is modern day, it has a warm nostalgic feeling about it, perhaps a result of Spike Lee’s style. My only wish is that the relationships were more deeply explored. We don’t really find out why Flik was sent to his grandfather’s in the first place. And the end seems to leave us guessing as to whether Flik and Enoch actually established a meaningful relationship. The audience’s desire for the two of them to connect is thwarted by the molestation accusation. It’s difficult to find anything redeeming about a pedophile, so the end of the movie is rather unsettling, but its obvious Flik has matured in a valuable way.
A new story with a classic Spike Lee feel, this film is certainly worth a watch. Check it out on Netflix. B.