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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Art is a distorted version of real life but some distortions -- especially in the media -- are positive, as in most movies about White people, and some are negative, as in many movies about Black people. A man is gentlemanly while courting a woman he respects. "Sometimes people are only in our lives for a season."
Positive Role Models
Both Isaiah and Stevie are good, loving, honest people who are struggling to balance professional dreams and a relationship.
The cast is almost entirely Black in a welcome attempt to offer a view of normal Black people leading normal lives that don't revolve around Hollywood stereotypes of criminality, drug use, and irresponsibility. The few moments spent on a White character are presented as threatening, and his reported success is later discussed as one more sign that Black people have to be twice as good as the White competition to get half as far in a systemically racist system that permeates every professional realm, including the art world. The movie also explores how much harder woman have to strive to achieve what men achieve more easily. The unspoken message is that women have historically been expected to uproot themselves to accommodate changes in their male partners' careers.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A couple is seen kissing and touching and ultimately having sex. Breasts are seen. A man has sold his sperm for money.
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"F--k," "s--t," "ass," and "bitch."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults drink alcohol and smoke joints.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Really Love is a mature drama about the ordinary struggles of a talented couple negotiating love, commitment, and passion for their work. With an almost entirely Black cast, the movie provides role models and a vision of life for young Black viewers rarely seen in American film. Their consuming careers eat into their time with each other, forcing painful, life-changing decisions. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "ass," and "bitch." A man and woman are seen kissing and having sex in the context of a committed relationship. Breasts are seen. Adults drink alcohol and smoke joints. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Like Toni Morrison's fiction, Really Love is a moving portrait of Black life that's not filtered through a White gaze but instead framed as a page in the book of humanity. The cast is almost entirely Black, and the story, refreshingly, presents regular Black people leading regular lives. Isaiah and Stevie fall deeply in love and work gets in the way, as everyday a story as was ever written. Director-producer-writer Angel Kristi Williams guides us with a sure hand toward an artistic vision that isn't blind to color and differences, but that chooses to portray them as shades in a spectrum of humanity. When painter Isaiah talks about offering his deliberate visual "distortions" to portray Black lives as normal, ordinary, and extraordinary all at once, we know that the movie is striving to do the same.
This is an absorbing romance, but the director has enough faith in the depth of her material to omit extraneous drama. No need for chase sequences, drug overdoses, screaming and yelling. Instead, she mirrors the sensuality of applying paint to canvas in the beautifully-rendered scenes of lovemaking between two people who have given themselves to each other in every way. This is normal life in all its dignity, enhanced by the incidental glamour of two beautiful and gifted lead actors. Kofi Siriboe as Isaiah is a special standout. Supporting the simple and emotional message is a moving score by Khari Mateen. If it can be said to have a flaw, the movie leaves unspoken the difficulty all women face, compared to men, in the struggle to actualize potential. If racial prejudice holds Black men back from achieving, it does so doubly in the case of Black women, who face the added bias against their gender. But, the movie hints, this struggle intrudes on every couple, no matter what race, religion, or economic stratum, and it's what breaks apart the otherwise well-suited lovers portrayed here. The question is: When a woman pays for her impoverished lover's gas, is she supporting him or emasculating him?
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.