How do you define yourself? Its not until its third act that Medicine for Melancholys lead male character explicitly asks the question at the heart of Barry Jenkinss tender, smart, soulful film. Micah (The Daily Shows Wyatt Cenac) is a doe-eyed, seemingly laid-back San Francisco native who installs aquariums for a living. When he and Jo (Tracey Heggins)initially aloof, charming when thawedawaken in the same bed after a friends party, neither knowing the others name, shes determined to do her walk of shame. Micahs too smitten, though, to just let her get away. The rest of the filmgorgeously shot in black and white by James Laxtonfollows as the duo spends the day (and another night) peeling back the layers in conversations that cover interracial relationships, striking the balance between what you do and how you pay the bills and the role of urban planning in pushing poor and black folk out of San Francisco. (Jenkins has joked in interviews that the film is black mumblecore, and it is, but with an intensity of purpose often lacking in that movement.) Imagine the Lower Haight, says Micah, recalling his childhood, filled with nothing but black folk and white artists. The lament will resonate from San Francisco to D.C., Los Angeles to Harlem, as enclaves that were once hubs of black American life are drained of their blackness.
March 6-12, 2009