Story Ave movie review & film summary (2023)

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His beloved brother is gone. His mother is in a depressive spiral. Remember that Lynyrd Skynyrd song, “All I Can Do Is Write About It”? All Kadir can do is draw about it in his notebooks and on walls with spray paint. The older brother of Kadir’s best friend is a hyper self-styled street king nicknamed “Skemes” (Melvin Gregg) who holds sway over a tagging team called “Outside the Lines,” who is, among other things, locked in a potentially lethal rivalry with another gang called “VHS.” Skemes discourages Kadir from seeking recognition and help from anywhere outside their circumscribed world. Later in the movie, Kadir will meet some artists who remember Skemes from back in the day—when he had “cops AND galleries banging on his door.” But these days, Skemes advises Kadir to “celebrate our culture … a culture that was a scar for us but is now conveniently a commodity for them.”

But Skemes has some odd ideas about how Kadir should do that. He lends his automatic to the kid and tells him to prove his mettle by robbing some random civilians. And bring back their IDs, credit cards, and such.

While Kadir, played with exceptional depth by Asante Blackk, is a pretty abrasive character for a pretty long time in this story, he’s no stickup kid. His second would-be victim, Guzmán’s character, recognizes this. He reacts to being held up with rather surprising generosity, standing Kadir for a meal, introducing him to another young artist, and imparting wisdom with compassion.

“Story Ave” is a portrait of an artist as a young man, a not-quite-coming-of-age tale, a narrative of escape but not abandonment. The outlines of the movie’s story are familiar, but Torres has resourcefulness, energy, and imagination to burn in how he tells it. The scenes of Kadir’s nightmares are especially vivid. And the way we’re led through Kadir’s eventual realization that the biggest obstacle he has to overcome is his bitter recalcitrance is more credible than what we get in many other such pictures. And then, of course, there’s Guzmán, delivering the comedic, sage, and tragic goods with equal power.

Now playing in theaters. 


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