A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that All Day and a Night is a gritty crime drama set in Oakland, California. The movie earnestly attempts to shed light on the generational violence that plagues a significant number of African American inner cities. Men rule; women try to survive. Viewers can expect multiple cold-blooded killings (point-blank gunfire, knifing), beatings (including parent-child, kid v. kid, gang v. gang). Bloody injuries and dead bodies are numerous. Profanity is unrestrained and constant: "s--t," "ass," "blow job," "d--k," countless uses of "f--k," and characters almost always refer to one another using a form of the "'N" word. There are sexual situations: passionate kissing and embracing, seductiveness, foreplay (i.e., in a bathtub), and nudity in a brief scene from a porn video. Casual use of alcohol and marijuana is frequent; hard drugs and drug-fueled gang wars are major plot elements. Though insightful and determined to deliver an important story, this movie isn't for kids.
What's the story?
As ALL DAY AND A NIGHT opens, Jahkor Abraham Lincoln (Ashton Sanders as an adult) commits a double murder and is sent to prison. The movie then uses flashbacks and flashforwards to trace the pervasive violence in his past -- as a child, a teen, and a young adult -- that led to his incarceration. Idealism as a boy and teen protects Jahkor for a time. But cruelty, racial tension, and despair are constant forces in the evolution of this thoughtful little boy on his way to the gangster life. His father J.D. (Jeffrey Wright) is a drug addict and felon, in and out of prison. One best friend T.Q. (Isaiah John) has ambition and no conscience. Lamark (Christopher Meyer), another close friend, resists only to find that salvation eludes him anyway. As events escalate, opportunities disappear, and gang warfare sets him up for a major betrayal, Jahkor appears to surrender to the savagery in the streets.
Is it any good?
When brutality and violence have purpose, as they do in this distinctive first movie from director Joe Robert Cole, it may be hard to watch, but it's definitely worth seeing. Ashton Sanders, memorable in his role as teen Chiron in 2016's Oscar winner Moonlight, again delivers a nuanced, graceful performance as Jahkor. He has much to play -- conflicting emotions, softness, fury, and fortitude, sometimes all in one scene -- and he does it skillfully. The consistently excellent Jeffrey Wright doesn't falter either; he embodies both ferocity and hopelessness. Featured players are solid. It's not a new story, but it's an important story well told. Cole, who also wrote the script, can be forgiven for some structural issues because his desire for authenticity and his refusal to completely give up on the easily abandoned are so strong. All Day and a Night is an auspicious directorial debut.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the graphic brutality in All Day and a Night. How did the pervasive violence help the filmmakers build sympathy for the main characters, especially Jahkor? Did you find yourself rooting for Jahkor even though it was clear that he was guilty of murder very early in the movie?
There are frequent mentions of "generations of men with the same stories on repeat." How does this movie illustrate that concept? How did the movie's final scenes relay a subtle message of hope and perhaps breaking the cycle of violence?
Why was Lamark's story an important part of the movie even though the character was seen only a few times? How did Lamark's situation, like Jahkor's, reaffirm the futility of resisting?
- On DVD or streaming: May 1, 2020
- Cast: Ashton Sanders, Jeffrey Wright, Isaiah John
- Director: Joe Robert Cole
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Friendship, History, Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 121 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong violence, pervasive language, drug use and some sexual content/nudity
- Last updated: June 24, 2020
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