Tallahassee, Florida. The broader context, the one of a black community there, slowly emerges, but only as the background of the family unit on which the story of Life and Nothing More focuses. Antonio Méndez Esparza writes a story with great accuracy, always chooses the perfect frames, but the writing and the staging do not diminish the incredible authenticity of a film that often appears as a documentary. The protagonists are all first-time actors and their impressive performances express the long-term casting process of a film whose process of production has fundamentally coincided with Méndez Esparza’s own acclimatisation and integration within the community. Pieces of improvisation are channeled brilliantly into solid editing that does not fear taking the time to develop a dramaturgy where every detail matters.
In Life and Nothing More, we hear a huge amount of dialogue. The protagonists appear to have a constant desire for a talkative mediation, even if Andrew, the teenager, eloquently opposes with long silences. The fact that this film progresses as a drama of words and silence shows us a new credible face of the reality of black communities in the States – going against the current of many recent films focusing on black American communities. The violence, the social problems, the difficulties are not absent but indirectly present as something that everyone has to deal with, attempting to traverse an often narrow path in order to eschew the spiral of illegality. Regina, the mother, seems to have to complete an obstacle course, where any moment of weakness can lead to difficult consequences. The words therefore become the ultimate occasion for a challenging but necessary mediation within a constantly threatening environment.
Together with RaMell Ross’ Hale County This Morning, This Evening, Life and Nothing More is certainly one of the most convincing recent films on American black communities.
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