A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Premature is a frank, intimate coming-of-age romance about a Harlem teen named Ayanna (Zora Howard) set during the summer before she leaves for college. It captures the the intense, all-consuming feelings of first love and the intricacies of developing a relationship in the modern world. The central couple has sex frequently, and both are seen fully naked, with everything but their genitalia shown during and after the act (while Ayanna is 17, co-writer Howard is of legal age). Howard's authenticity in delivering the female experience of sex provides a more accurate view of the experience. Teen pregnancy is a recurring theme: One character has to take care of her sister's young children and frequently yells at her "to keep her legs closed," while another character in the early stages of pregnancy takes an abortion pill, leading to a painful miscarriage. That scene is depicted without judgment but realistically -- definitely not as an "easy" solution, and it has real emotional fallout. Ayanna's boyfriend Isaiah (Joshua Boone) also dispels media stereotypes of Black manhood: He's caring, conscientious, emotional, and communicative. The film accurately captures youth culture, behavior, and attitudes, including the strong language teens use in conversation ("s--t," "f--k," the "N" word, and many more) and substance use while hanging out or partying.
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What's the story?
In PREMATURE, the summer before 17-year-old Ayanna (Zora Howard) heads to college, she meets Isaiah (Joshua Boone), a young music producer who recently moved to Harlem. As the two fall in love, Ayanna is aware that she's too young to be feeling such adult emotions -- which ultimately have adult consequences.
Is it any good?
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about sex and teen pregnancy. How do Ayanna's friends talk about it? How is it portrayed in Premature compared to other movies and TV shows you've seen?
The success and failure of Ayanna and Isaiah's relationship hinges on communication. When is it depicted as helping their relationship progress? When does the lack of it show their relationship moving backward?
Talk about Isaiah. What makes him a three-dimensional character? How does he play against media stereotypes of Black men?
How is Harlem used as a character in the film?
- In theaters: February 21, 2020
- On DVD or streaming: February 21, 2020
- Cast: Zora Howard, Joshua Boone, Michelle Wilson
- Director: Rashaad Ernesto Green
- Studio: IFC Films
- Genre: Romance
- Character strengths: Communication
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong crude and sexual content throughout, language and some drug use
- Last updated: May 22, 2020
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