The Obituary of Tunde Johnson
Intense, timely time-loop drama has police brutality.
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The Obituary of Tunde Johnson
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Obituary of Tunde Johnson is an imperfect but powerful and intense drama about a Black LGBTQ+ teen (Steven Silver) who's stuck in a time loop in which he's murdered by Los Angeles police at the end of every day. Officers shoot and strangle him. Blood spurts are seen, and scenes include a near drowning, a violent video game, fighting, arguing, screaming, and more. Teens -- both a boy-girl couple and a boy-boy couple -- have sex in fairly explicit scenes that include thrusting, kissing, caressing, and moaning. But the only nudity is half-buttocks (both male and female), shown from the side. There's also sex-related dialogue, flirting, and skimpy clothing. Language includes many uses of "f--k," plus "s--t," "motherf----r," and more. The main character has a Xanax dependency, main characters smoke pot and cigarettes, and there's teen drinking at a party, as well as drug-related dialogue.
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What's the Story?
In THE OBITUARY OF TUNDE JOHNSON, high schooler Tunde (Steven Silver) comes out to his Nigerian-born parents and is elated when they reassure him and offer their support. In high spirits, he heads to the birthday party of his White, athletic boyfriend Soren (Spencer Neville) but is pulled over by the cops. When Tunde reaches for his ringing phone, the cops shoot him. Unexpectedly, Tunde then wakes up, very much alive, and it's the same day again. As the day repeats again and again, Tunde must confront several issues, including the fact that Soren hasn't yet come out and is in a cover-up sexual relationship with Tunde's best friend, Marley (Nicola Peltz). But at the end of each day, Tunde faces yet more police brutality.
Is It Any Good?
It doesn't make the most of its time-loop conceit, but this drama nonetheless tackles issues related to LGBTQ+ identity and police brutality with a clear-headedness drawn from love and pain. Indeed, the strangest thing about The Obituary of Tunde Johnson is the fact that Tunde wakes up in the same day every day and more or less shrugs and goes about his day-to-day activities, as if nothing strange were going on. (He seems to consider all of it a hallucination brought on by his medication.) Although perhaps even more striking is that he never seems shaken by the violence he experiences every day; perhaps he's numb to it, or perhaps he just instinctively knows he must keep going, no matter what.
Watching the police scenes repeatedly escalate to bloody conclusions is very harrowing, mainly because theses scenes are simultaneously shocking and heartbreakingly inevitable. No less affecting are the issues surrounding Tunde's relationship and the perpetual fear of alienating both conservative parents -- Soren's father (David James Elliott) is a contentious right-wing TV commentator -- and fair-weather high school friends. Comedy-veteran screenwriter (Head of State, Half Brothers) and creator of Everybody Hates Chris and Are We There Yet? Ali LeRoi makes his feature directing debut with The Obituary of Tunde Johnson, and it's striking, sensual, and deeply felt.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the violence in The Obituary of Tunde Johnson. What is the impact of the scenes of police brutality? How do they add to the discussion about racist violence against Black people?
How are drinking, smoking, and drugs depicted? Does the fact that teens are using these substances make them more shocking? Do they look glamorous? What are the consequences for using?
How is teen sex portrayed? What values are conveyed?
How are LGBTQ+ characters represented? Are they relatable? Strong? Are any stereotypes used?
How is the time-loop plot device used here? How does it compare to other movies that have used a similar concept?
- In theaters: February 26, 2021
- On DVD or streaming: February 26, 2021
- Cast: Steven Silver, Spencer Neville, Nicola Peltz
- Director: Ali LeRoi
- Studio: Wolfe Releasing
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 104 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: October 8, 2022
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