Howard makes such an impression in her debut feature film that there's no doubt a star is born -- or stars, in this case, as the film is filled with up and coming talent. Howard's will be a new name to some, but she's already made her mark in New York: At age 13, she became the youngest poet to win the Urban Word NYC Grand Slam finals, had one of her poems made into a satirical documentary short that garnered acclaim, and soon after became the city's first youth poet laureate. She co-wrote Premature, and her poetry is beautifully woven into Ayanna's story. Like a true introvert, Ayanna is verbally expressive on paper, constantly writing in her notebooks. She keeps her doubts and worries to herself, but Howard is so visually expressive that viewers feel all of her emotions in ways that aren't always accurately revealed in movies.
That also speaks to how writer-director Rashaad Ernesto Green and Howard portray sex from the female point of view: While there are definitely moments when the earth shakes, Ayanna's raw reactions are far more authentic to real life than the typical Hollywood depictions of picture-perfect sighs and moans. The teasing, jealousy, annoyances, and we-must-be-together-at-all-times beats of a new romance contrast with the doubts and discoveries that emerge once the new phase starts to fade. Isaiah is the answer to toxic masculinity: He's a three-dimensional man who isn't perfect but advocates for men to exist, feel, and express themselves emotionally in an evolving world. The interactions among teens are so natural that it hardly feels like anyone is "acting," but rather that the cameras are just capturing the moment -- much like producer Darren Dean's previously acclaimed film, The Florida Project. Parents may not always be comfortable with the honest portrayals of love gained and lost, teen pregnancy and medicinal abortion, and friendships and family relationships familiar in their flaws, but Premature should be recognized for offsetting the Hollywood myths that so often create false expectations.