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Review: A Thousand and One – “A contender for one of the best films of the year”

Could A Thousand and One be a contender for one of the best films of the year? I certainly think so.

We follow Inez de la Paz (Teyana Taylor), just released from being incarcerated and is back on the streets in NYC. Not long out, she finds and kidnaps her son, Terry, from foster care and tries to rebuild the bond of being a mother to a boy who rightfully feels abandoned by her.

We jump through several years of Inez and Terry’s life, on this road to reclaiming what was once lost, we start in ’94, then 2001, followed by 2005. After living on the streets, Inez gets an apartment for them both, soon after comes a job as a hairdresser and then finds a partner in Lucky (William Catlett), a young man more than willing to take on Terry as his own.

Fractured by the past, Terry must come to terms with how his life is unfolding and as things start looking good for him, a new revelation unearths things that can’t be fixed and questions everything his mother has told him.

Bringing Inez to life, Taylor has secured her name as one to watch and if the studios aren’t beating down the doors with interesting characters for her to play, they soon will be.

It is a close call between her and Danielle Deadwyler as Mamie Till, in ‘Till’ as (female) performance of the year; I’d go with joint first at present.

The majority of Taylor’s work has been music videos for her singing career but also for a plethora of huge musicians like Ne-Yo and Missy Elliot and Kanye.

We first see Terry when he is 6, through Aaron Kingsley Adetola, then at age 13 played by Aven Courtney. By the age of 17, Josiah Cross portraying the young man and getting the most to do and contend with. It is hard to break the comparison with Moonlight, but this is a different story with a similar narrative. And being compared to such a great film isn’t a bad thing.

This is director A.V. Rockwell’s feature film debut and it is one that should be talked about and on every list of the best directorial debuts. She has created a masterpiece with great performances and tight dialogue. She has cited the likes of Spike Lee and Martin Scorsese as an influence on her film-making. Both directors are heavy on characters and this is where A Thousand and One excels. The cinematography is grounded and raw, to expose the harshness of the life people from the poorer communities survive in.

I fear outside the US, A Thousand and One will be missed by so many, which will truly be one of the biggest crimes of the film world in 2023. Hopefully Prime or Netflix pick it up and it will get a bit more exposure.

The final shot of the film is such an iconic moment, that will have you questioning Inez’ character and everything she has done; begging you for a rewatch.

You can find me here.

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