Chad Hartigan’s sweet, slender Sundance Award-winning “Morris From America” follows pudgy thirteen-year-old Morris Gentry (marvelous newcomer Markees Christmas) as he relocates to Germany with his recently widowed father, Curtis (Craig Robinson), who’s been hired to coach a soccer team in Heidelberg.There are so many things going on in what appears to be an unassuming coming-of-age film—the sensation of being an outsider, of struggles of parenting, of isolation, loneliness, casual racism, first love with an older blonde German girl (Carla Juri) who has a college-age boyfriend, and always the oft-embarrassing exchanges between a father and a teenage son. (Their bond through rap is one such embarrassment. One such exchange soars and thrills, when, wholly earned, father and son speak aloud what they hope will come.) Craig Robinson is the revelation here. Always charming and charismatic in smaller roles (“This Is The End,” “Hot Tub Time Machine,” “The Office,” “Pineapple Express,” “Walk Hard”), this is a reserved yet emphatically exhilarating screen performance. It’s also a coming-of-age for filmmaker Hartigan, whose earlier films include “This Is Martin Bonner” (2013) and “Luke and Brie Are on a First Date” (2008). Indie film lives, even thrives, if an audience will only discover the joys of a movie like “Morris From America.” With Lina Keller, Jakub Gierszal. 89m. (Ray Pride)
“Morris From America” opens Friday, August 26 at the Arclight.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.