Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Yelling to the Sky

Tale of a young girl grappling with a troubled home will alienate some viewers but be embraced by others.

Dec 11, 2012

-By John DeFore


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1368958-Yelling_Sky_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

An elliptical portrait of at-risk youth where little if anything is unambiguous, Victoria Mahoney’s Yelling to the Sky drips with a strange but sometimes moving nostalgia for environs its characters clearly want to escape. Its artful indirectness leaves enough gaps to present commercial difficulties, but the right kind of attention could support an art-house run.

Set in Queens, New York, but with no specific geographical references (and few rooting it to any definite time period), the movie focuses on a mixed-race home in which two girls, Sweetness (Zoë Kravitz) and Ola (Antonique Smith), are raised by a white father—alcoholic and prone to abuse, but caring when sober—and a black mother afflicted with mental-health issues we never understand.

The early appearance of Precious' Gabourey Sidibe as a neighborhood bully may cue viewers to expect something like that 2009 film's descent into misery, but abuse and crime are far less sensationalized here. Sweetness and Ola may hide under the kitchen table when Dad's on a tear, but writer-director Mahoney (making her debut) leaves any extreme mistreatment off-screen. (The pic's most gory scene, in fact, is an act of familial kindness—as Sweetness holds mirrors so her father can stitch his head up after getting in a fight.)

As Sweetness, Kravitz has to undergo a major transformation with practically no help from the script: When her pregnant big sister runs off, she undergoes an identity crisis and deliberately chooses to become a harder person—convincing a local drug dealer to help her start dealing and recruiting two identically dressed bad girls to form a tiny but tough gang.

Kravitz approaches the change matter-of-factly, offering little outward hint of the character's motivations; some viewers will be frustrated by an inability to identify with the character, while others will embrace the opaqueness as unsentimental realism.

Elsewhere, the film isn't averse to sentiment, portraying even deeply flawed characters in a nearly noble light, particularly the drug dealer (Tariq Trotter) who spreads his money around the neighborhood charitably.

Warm vibes are echoed in the cinematography (which makes even a troubled home glow with late-afternoon hues) and in an intriguing soundtrack, where Joni Mitchell alternates with hip-hop much as crime and kindness compete within Sweetness’ persona.
The Hollywood Reporter


Film Review: Yelling to the Sky

Tale of a young girl grappling with a troubled home will alienate some viewers but be embraced by others.

Dec 11, 2012

-By John DeFore


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1368958-Yelling_Sky_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

An elliptical portrait of at-risk youth where little if anything is unambiguous, Victoria Mahoney’s Yelling to the Sky drips with a strange but sometimes moving nostalgia for environs its characters clearly want to escape. Its artful indirectness leaves enough gaps to present commercial difficulties, but the right kind of attention could support an art-house run.

Set in Queens, New York, but with no specific geographical references (and few rooting it to any definite time period), the movie focuses on a mixed-race home in which two girls, Sweetness (Zoë Kravitz) and Ola (Antonique Smith), are raised by a white father—alcoholic and prone to abuse, but caring when sober—and a black mother afflicted with mental-health issues we never understand.

The early appearance of Precious' Gabourey Sidibe as a neighborhood bully may cue viewers to expect something like that 2009 film's descent into misery, but abuse and crime are far less sensationalized here. Sweetness and Ola may hide under the kitchen table when Dad's on a tear, but writer-director Mahoney (making her debut) leaves any extreme mistreatment off-screen. (The pic's most gory scene, in fact, is an act of familial kindness—as Sweetness holds mirrors so her father can stitch his head up after getting in a fight.)

As Sweetness, Kravitz has to undergo a major transformation with practically no help from the script: When her pregnant big sister runs off, she undergoes an identity crisis and deliberately chooses to become a harder person—convincing a local drug dealer to help her start dealing and recruiting two identically dressed bad girls to form a tiny but tough gang.

Kravitz approaches the change matter-of-factly, offering little outward hint of the character's motivations; some viewers will be frustrated by an inability to identify with the character, while others will embrace the opaqueness as unsentimental realism.

Elsewhere, the film isn't averse to sentiment, portraying even deeply flawed characters in a nearly noble light, particularly the drug dealer (Tariq Trotter) who spreads his money around the neighborhood charitably.

Warm vibes are echoed in the cinematography (which makes even a troubled home glow with late-afternoon hues) and in an intriguing soundtrack, where Joni Mitchell alternates with hip-hop much as crime and kindness compete within Sweetness’ persona.
The Hollywood Reporter
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Drive Hard
Film Review: Drive Hard

A car-chase-heavy clunker whose vehicular set-pieces are almost as lame as the recurring sight of star John Cusack attempting to look cool while firing pistols. More »

Harmontown
Film Review: Harmontown

Open-nerve documentary about “Community” creator Dan Harmon’s chaotic live podcast tour after being fired from his own TV show is sometimes raggedly funny, but truly a fans-only artifact. More »

The Liberator
Film Review: The Liberator

Impressively mounted but overly truncated take on a great historical figure about whom much more needs to be known. More »

The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin
Film Review: The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin

Wide-ranging primer is involving but leaves some details hazy. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

The Equalizer Review
Film Review: The Equalizer

Former agent is drawn out of hiding to fight a Russian gang in a reboot of the 1980s television series. More »

The Boxtrolls
Film Review: The Boxtrolls

Another amazingly meticulous and stylish stop-motion tale from the Laika studio, this time focusing on a boy adopted by a population of maligned underground trolls. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here