The Outside Story
2021, NR, 85 min. Directed by Casimir Nozkowski. Starring Brian Tyree Henry, Sonequa Martin-Green, Sunita Mani, Olivia Edward, Michael Cyril Creighton, Maria Dizzia, Lynda Gravatt.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., April 30, 2021
A welcome diversion from our current reality, this gently comic and mildly melancholy slice of “a day in the life” fun follows an introverted film editor forced by fate – and the fact that he’s accidentally locked himself out of his Brooklyn apartment – to rediscover the small pleasures and weighty truths of the wider world outside.
Shot prior to the pandemic (No masks! Woohoo!) that’s kept nearly the entire planet stuck at home for over a year, the situational irony of this film arriving at this particular moment is inescapable. It’s a delightful indie gem that bears more than a little resemblance to Martin Scorsese’s woefully under-loved After Hours, albeit during the daylight.
Charles Young (Henry, of Atlanta) is an adorable wreck at the crossroads of his life following a breakup with his lawyer girlfriend Isha (Martin-Green). His job, as he tells the local traffic cop (Mani, excellent) editing together in memoriam videos for old or sick actors, "in case, y’know…” is a bummer that even he realizes. There’s mention of a documentary of his own that’s his true passion, but the post-Isha anhedonia he’s mired in has left him feeling (and looking) like the saddest of sad sacks, mourning what could have been and wondering if his dumping her after she admits to being (very briefly) unfaithful was the right call.
The question torments him, and getting locked out of his home while on deadline just makes matters worse – or so he initially sees it. Instead, an ensemble cast of eccentric neighbors that he’s never really met dole out advice on the fleeting nature of life and love and rekindle, perhaps, his absent passion for both the world outside and Isha. Among them are a pair of Swedish swingers just dropping by for a threesome with Charles upstairs neighbor (Creighton), a young piano prodigy (Edward) and her high-strung, overbearing mother (Dizzia), herself a Broadway actress whose finest role was as a fiery nun in the ludicrously named “Burn Down the Convent," the aforementioned traffic policewoman, and a wise elderly widow (Gravatt) in the building next door who offers sage advice and a phone charger in exchange for Charles helping her figure out how to get on Tinder.
A savvy examination of the importance of community, The Outside Story meanders along with Charles and his chance encounters with others in his neighborhood. It’s a slight film, really a seriocomic tone poem about the absurdities and obstacles we can create for ourselves even when our intentions are for the best, but it brims with ordinary everyday good cheer and feels like just the right movie at just the right time.
Available on VOD now.