A quiet, sneaky sense of dislocation vibrates through Chad Hartigan’s indie comedy, which contains so many ideas about race, child-rearing, fatherhood and accidental exoticism, that to call it a mere coming-of-age movie would be a shame. We begin with the sight of teenage Morris (Markees Christmas) having a stroll and bonding session with his similarly Yankees-capped dad, Curtis (Craig Robinson, in a huggable career-revising turn). Widening out, we see they’re in some kind of European paradise—it’s Heidelberg, Germany—and already, Morris from America starts knocking you back with surprises.
Of course, their American blackness matters in a place where, contextually, they are so unique. But the plot swivels to address other issues: Curtis, a widower with a good job abroad, is a doting father who wants to inculcate serious ideas of manhood and responsibility in his son. There’s also Morris’s budding rap career (in his head) and the way that, even for all his politeness, he becomes a magnet of concern among the white German teachers at his academy. Finally, there’s Katrin (Lina Keller), the kind of dangerously alluring schoolmate around which such stories are built.
Breaking out of his cage, Morris makes some fairly boneheaded decisions (the kind that involve light drug use, secret road trips and broken hearts), but Hartigan is confident enough in his plot’s sincerity that he doesn’t feel the need to punish or judge him. This is a supremely gentle film, one that doesn’t require a catastrophe to capture a momentous sense of growing up.
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