LUV Directed by Sheldon Candis Starring: Common, Michael Rainey Jr., Dennis Haysbert, Danny Glover, Charles S. Dutton, Meagan Good, Michael Kenneth Williams, Clark Johnson, Anwan Glover Indomina Releasing Rated R | 94 Minutes Release Date: January 18, 2013
Directed by Los Angeles-based filmmaker Sheldon Candis, LUV features Michael Rainey Jr. as Woody, an 11-year-old boy who gets a crash course in what it means to be a man when he spends a day with his Uncle Vincent (Common).
With his mother in rehab and his father out of the picture, Woody Watson lives with his grandmother (Lonette McKee) in Baltimore, Maryland, and longs to visit his mother in North Carolina at her drug treatment facility.
His charismatic Uncle Vincent has recently returned home to the inner-city streets of Baltimore after eight years in prison, determined to straighten out his life by starting his own business and providing for his family.
Unfortunately, Vincent soon finds himself caught up in the violent world he’s trying to escape – and Woody has to decide whether to follow his childhood hero – or become his own man. LUV features an impressive ensemble of African-American actors including Danny Glover, Charles S. Dutton, Dennis Haysbert, Meagan Good, and Michael Kenneth Williams.
LUV (Learning Uncle Vincent), which premiered at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, feels like an amalgam of Gabriele Muccino’s The Pursuit of Happiness and David Simon’s brilliant HBO series, The Wire. In fact, Candis populates his Baltimore crime drama with familiar faces from Simon’s series: Williams (Omar Little), Anwan Glover (Slim Charles), and Clark Johnson (Gus Haynes), who pop up in supporting roles to further flesh-out the universe.
White it doesn’t have the literary ambitions or the sociopolitical themes of Simon’s work, LUV manages to deliver a realistic portrayal of urban life. The film has some interesting things to say about African-American culture and the reality of growing up in a hostile environment and how that shapes us, for better or worse, as individuals. Common delivers his best on-screen performance yet as Uncle Vincent and young Michael Rainey Jr. handles himself well while traversing extremely grown-up and complex themes.
Think about this: Common has battled Terminators. Danny Glover went toe-to-toe with a Predator, and Charles S. Dutton stood his ground against a Xenomorph – these are some legitimate bad-asses, all sharing the screen with President Palmer from 24 and half the cast of The Wire – what more could you possibly ask for?
LUV is an above-average urban drama and a fine first feature for Candis (who co-wrote the film with Justin Wilson) – the beginning of an extremely promising career is ahead of him. While it borders on melodramatic and overacted at times, there’s a good amount of truth in the story being told, and I think for those looking for new noteworthy films in African-American cinema, LUV is absolutely worth a look.
LUV is currently in select theaters, distributed by Indomina Releasing in partnership with AMC Theaters. To find showtimes in your area, click here.