Starring Karen LeBlanc, Clark Johnson, and Daniel J. Gordon. Rated PG. Opens Friday, February 6, at the Cinemark Tinseltown
The puzzlingly punctuated title is a tip-off that characters here are to be taken with several grains of mythopoeic salt.
Watch the trailer for Nurse.Fighter.Boy.
A first feature from young director Charles Officer, who wrote it with producer Ingrid Veninger, Nurse.Fighter.Boy rests on three people connected by chance and excellent cinematography. First up is Jude (TV veteran Karen LeBlanc), a night nurse suffering from the onset of sickle-cell anemia. She’s turned her caring young son, Ciel (Daniel J. Gordon), into the man of the house. This does leave some room, however, for Silence (The Wire’s Clark Johnson), a brooding boxer trying to turn his life around by running a gym for wayward youths.
This all sounds very inspirational, and the way the Jamaican-rooted trio gets together does hinge on melodramatic events. But the story here, and the script—which offers dull homilies like “The people you love never really go away”—are the least of what’s on offer. Cinematographer Steve Cosens and Officer imbue the work with a powerful visual sense; the virtuosic, deep-hued leaps between contrasting moods tell us a lot more than the dialogue delivers, and so do the actors.
The movie’s hypnotic rhythms, fashioned by clever editor James Blokland, are helped along by hip music choices, ranging from Terry Callier and Citizen Cope to Toots and the Maytals. Vancouver’s Ndidi Onukwulu also appears as an earthy jazz singer. And, apparently, everyone back East is still heavily into vinyl.
In the end, things wind down in an overly conventional way. Taken on the level of urban fable, though, the movie is a satisfyingly soulful exploration of the African diaspora and its beautiful discontents.