You gotta love it when a film can communicate how intense and serious it will be within seconds. "Life is the problem." Amen to that, Mickey, amen. The importance of a film like this cannot be stressed enough – "Mickey Hardaway" opens up the possibilities for a dialogue we all should have - through the story it presents. From the gripping characters within the film to the immense themes it tackles, from domestic violence, child abuse, the pursuit of our dreams, family problems, alcohol issues, systemic flaws, trust, power dynamics, and so much more, This film starts conversations that most movies would never dare to attempt. From the gritty look of it onscreen to the potency of the scenes to what this film communicates by saying the quiet parts out loud, it's all a real achievement.
There are some serious standout elements. From the title character himself, played by Rashad Hunter, to the gripping scenes with his father, played by David Chattam, all the way down to the supporting cast of teachers, therapists, loved ones, and more. Writer/director Marcellus Cox not only created a compelling story that speaks volumes on behalf of what independent filmmaking can genuinely be but also made sure that the actors he enlisted to bring it to the screen valued every single word and scene within his film. There are extremely relevant and crucial conversations that highlight how much we don't talk about, like how much we do or don't owe to the places we come from - and the family we're raised with, or how much we're supposed to forgive injustices and inhumanity because it was from a different time. Or how about the concept of what professional advice is or isn't? I watched a great many scenes where I felt like the advice of the therapist Cameron, played by Stephen Cofield Jr, fell extremely short of what he needed and, in many ways, basically failed young "Mickey Hardaway."
Don't get me wrong, the writing is great and very realistic – but what happens when we reach for help, and the help we reach for is inadequate, or can't do enough to fix the problems we have at the time we need it most? Perhaps most accurate and most relatable is the idea that we can do everything within our power to live life to the best of our abilities - and still never find our way to the place where we feel like we belong. Like Mickey says at the start – "Life is the problem." This movie makes us ask the question of what we would do when we realize it's not enough or doesn't go as we once hoped and dreamed that it would. Even when Mickey meets Grace (Ashley Parchment), and it seems like things might finally be heading in a better direction for our main character, we still have this nagging doubt in the back of our minds that it's not going to be enough for him. What would you do if even love wasn't going to be enough of a reason for you to want to stick around? Everything about "Mickey Hardaway" compels us to take a hard, wide-eyed look at what we need, what is important, how firm our morals are, and ultimately, what makes any life truly worth living. It's an entire philosophy course in the span of one film, and Marcellus should be entirely proud of what he's accomplished with this movie.
The acting within this film is excellent, and the direction, no surprise, is also all aces. I loved the black-and-white look and the way this whole story is presented to us, and beyond any of that, I was completely impressed by the fact that "Mickey Hardaway" takes on so much and leaves nothing out, for real. When you consider how many things this film is attempting to communicate and say to us all at once, you have to marvel at the fact that we don't feel remotely cheated at all by the end. A true indication of tight scriptwriting and attention to detail, "Mickey Hardaway" will probably head in the direction that you think it will go - from the moment that it starts, which is incredibly conclusive by the time it reaches its ending. It's a full-scale social commentary that is guaranteed to provoke the right kinds of conversation - the ones we "should" be having, and a film that brings light to the darkness, so many of us feel. Powerfully moving, extremely well thought-out, and memorable without question – I'm going with a solid four out of five stars for "Mickey Hardaway." This film will resonate with you long, long after it's all over.