Warning: Graphic Scenes and Nudity.
Director: Rashaad Ernesto Green
Main Cast: Zora Howard, Joshua Boone, Imani Lewis, Michelle Wilson, Alexis Marie Wint, Tashiana Washington
Young Black Love. There simply isn’t enough of it on our screens. In the cinematic world there seems to be a narrative that black love can only flourish in the midst ferocious gunfire and gang warfare, an unfortunate or beautiful reality (depending on what way you choose to look at it) it may be, but it isn’t representative of all of the romantic experiences in the black community. Sometimes the seeds of love birthed on a hard, concrete basketball court in the middle of Harlem and the stakes are as high as the emotional investment made by each person. “Premature” is that warm, testing but oh so familiar love story that doesn’t try to jump off of the screen, opting to lure you inside instead.
“On a summer night in Harlem during her last months at home before starting college, seventeen-year-old poet Ayanna (Zora Howard) meets Isaiah (Joshua Boone), a charming music producer who has just moved to the city. It’s not long before these two artistic souls are drawn together in a passionate summer romance. But as the highs of young love give way to jealousy, suspicion, and all-too-real consequences, Ayanna must confront the complexities of the adult world—whether she is ready or not.”
It’s very much a 21st century love story in the sense that it doesn’t rely on forecasting to define the strength of the relationship; there’s no talk of wedding days, home buying or labels, just two people living in the moment and taking each emotion as it comes. For a large portion of the film, that emotion is intimacy (they spend a lot of time ‘getting to know one another’). Its that palms pressed up against the inside of a steamy shower, toes dug into the crevices of the duvet, ‘neighbours know my name’ type of loving and why should it be anything else? This is what real people are like behind closed doors and “Premature” isn’t shy about showing it on screen. With that being said, you’re never mistaken about the type of film your watching, there isn’t a second where the love becomes lost in the lust. If you’ve ever felt anything for someone before, this film will speak to “that feeling” and feel watching Ayanna and Isaiah’s story so close up will send you on a one-way trip down memory lane.
Their connection goes beyond their sexual desires and it’s easy for you to buy into how these two people fell for each other so hard and so fast. I find it really cool that they’re both ‘artsy’ (poetry and music) in a lot of romance films there’s this played out narrative that the girl has to be the smart poetic one and the guy has it be the one that constantly stumbles over his words and struggles to get his feelings across. In this film you literally can’t wait for them to open their mouths because they’re BOTH articulate and there’s no shortage of deep poetic expression. In one scene Ayanna says “What did I know of my heart before you gave it shape”, that’s deep… Enough words can’t be said about how beautifully written the dialogue is between these characters and I think that extra attention to detail is what will set it apart from other films in the genre in years to come.
The majority of the weight of the comic relief is shouldered by the strong supporting cast of women, they’re in your face, unapologetic and above all they’re hilarious. The energy they bring to the screen really helps to break down the dense romance that dominates most of the film and thankfully it never feels forced because it’s done in it’s evenly spaced out, so you won’t have to worrying about cringing (apart from an OJ Simpson joke or two).
When watching this it will be easy to forget that it was originally pitched to you as a “summer fling before college” because it feels like it goes on forever and I mean that in the most complimentary way. The emotional highs of the honeymoon period last for a small eternity, but the same could be said about the lows. The biggest turning point in the film is a brutal watch and and without spoiling it, many of you will choose to look away from the screen, but what you won’t be able to do is walk away from this film without questions. It’s a harsh examination on what it means to be a women and the perception of female autonomy through the male gaze.
The Director (Rashaad Ernesto Green) said that the film purpose of this film was to shine the light on black experiences outside of “trauma”, but trauma is such an intrinsic part of the black experience that it rears its ugly head in parts of the film. For that, I am grateful, because it doesn’t insult our intelligence as viewers. It’s a very self-aware film and even though it’s main focus is love, it very subtly acknowledges trauma without explicitly addressing it and kind of just leaves you to make of it what you will (e.g. Ayanna’s troubled relationship with her mum, Isaiah losing his father, etc). Outside of what it offers on screen, this film ushers in a wave of new talent that most of us aren’t familiar with and with that should bring in an influx of fresh ideas and perspectives.
Premature is a long overdue, thought-provoking and honest Black love story that you should be watching right now.