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A Thousand and One

  • Film
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
A Thousand and One
Photograph: Universal Pictures

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Teyana Taylor is captivating in a striking New York drama about parenting in adversity

In her feature debut, director AV Rockwell delivers a poignant and stirring portrait of parenthood in a rapidly gentrifying New York City. Set in the mid-’90s, the story casts rising star Teyana Taylor (Coming 2 America) as Inez, who has just been released from Rikers Island. Though she doesn’t have a job or a place of her own, Inez decides to kidnap her six-year-old son Terry from the foster care system, with a firm resolve to give him the best life she can afford. 

After securing an apartment and forged identity documents for Terry to ensure he remains undetected by the authorities, Inez is joined by her on-off boyfriend Lucky (William Catlett) and the three of them settle into their new life as a non-traditional family. 

The story spans a decade or so, with the passage of time marked by three different actors portraying Terry in different stages of life. Aaron Kingsley Adetola embodies a young and vulnerable six-year-old Terry, while Aven Courtney delivers a compelling performance as a preteen. Eventually, Terry grows into a quiet and academically gifted 17-year-old (Josiah Cross), but by this point, Inez’s carefully crafted facade threatens to unravel when he begins contemplating part-time jobs and university. Throughout it all, however, she never loses focus on her goal of guiding her family through hardships, even as Lucky dips in and out of the picture.

Teyana Taylor’s raw, captivating performance showcases her impressive range

It’s not a short film and more time could have been spent forging a deeper connection with some of the characters. Nevertheless, Taylor’s portrayal of Inez is raw and captivating, showcasing her impressive range, while Rockwell expertly conveys the grit required to survive in the unforgiving cityscape of New York.

Ultimately, her story calls to mind Frank Sinatra's famous adage: ‘If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.’ Through its powerful exploration of what defines familial ties and the tenacity of marginalised communities in one of America's toughest cities, A Thousand and One resonates deeply. 

In US theaters March 31 and UK cinemas Apr 21

Emma Steen
Written by
Emma Steen

Cast and crew

  • Director:AV Rockwell
  • Screenwriter:AV Rockwell
  • Cast:
    • Teyana Taylor
    • William Catlett
    • Aaron Kingsley Adetola
    • Josiah Cross
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