Soft-spoken Jahkor Lincoln (Ashton Sanders) struggles to keep his dream of rapping alive amidst a gang war in Oakland. It’s hard to have dreams in his neighbourhood. It’s hard to see outside the box you’re born into, to believe there are options for you, to believe your life isn’t fated by the colour of your skin. But no matter how hard he tries, his responsibilities seem to push him further and further across a line he never wanted to cross.
Jakhor lands in prison beside his father J.D. (Jeffrey Wright), the man he spent his whole life never wanting to become. But prison gives him lots of time to reflect, to explore the ties that bound them inextricably, and to dream of ways to beak the cycle for his own newborn set, whom he’s never met.
All Day and A Night is a title I still haven’t figured out and a film that’s a bit of a mixed bag. It slides backwards and forwards through time, which can get a bit sloppy. And it recycles a lot of material about young black lives that we’ve seen before. But it gets a few things really right – the sense of foreboding, for one, almost of inevitability that is heavy and depressing, and I’m just watching a film, not trying to live my life. Writer-director Joe Robert Cole clearly has a lot to say on the subject but I almost feel it was several movies’ worth, making this one a little disjointed. For example, there’s a very powerful scene in which Jakhor is visiting a friend in the hospital, a friend who will never walk again after a stint in the army. Jakhor is wearing a jersey, the NFL logo visible just below his pained face, reminding us of not one but two institutions that eat up and spit out the bodies of young black men.
I’ts not a perfect film but it has a voice and it has intention and if it’s not a string of hits, at least it’s a string of meaningful swings, and that’s a lot more than the other new releases on Netflix this week. All Day And A Night co-stars Isaiah John, Kelly Jenrette, Shakira Ja’Nai Paye, Regina Taylor, Christopher Meyer and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II.