Writer-stars Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs shoot for the magical realism moon with a story of Oakland circa Right Now that strives mightily but not artfully to blend low comedy (vegan burgers at the Kwikway), high drama (white cop shooting black citizen), social commentary (white local v. black gentrifier), psychological struggle (the title refers to the difficulty of seeing beyond first impressions), spiritual crisis (cemetery visions of fallen brethren), doomed romance (one strike and you’re out), and oh yes, off-the-cuff ruminations on various situations that show serious flow. Their talent and charisma are all but undeniable, and their ambition is impossible not to admire, but their execution is confused — fatally so, from a storytelling standpoint. (The climactic speech, to name a clear example, may garner your admiration, but it loses your engagement in the process. Ditto the goofily narrated conflict that sets our hero on his path to prison and back again.) Yes, life is large enough to encompass all of those aspects, but the movie is not. And when you’ve got this many pieces in your puzzle, it’s all too tempting to rely on coincidence — and to jettison character — to make them fit. Directed by Carlos López Estrada. (2018) — Matthew Lickona
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