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Obituary of Tunde Johnson (The)

Country: USA, Language: English, 104 mins

  • Director: Ali LeRoi
  • Writer: Stanley Kalu
  • Producer: Chuck Bond; Marni Bond; Zachary Green; Jason Shuman

CGiii Comment

Taking risks with your debut feature is [sometimes] a risk worth taking. Ali LeRois has taken a massive risk...with his variation on Groundhog Day! In that...the same story is told over and over again...with tweaks. The danger with this structure is that each new variation can feel like a re-write of the previous scene...and that is exactly the problem with this film. Repetition...each variant is [needlessly] announced, it's almost as if the director has [wildly] under-estimated the audience...it's screamingly obvious when a chapter ends and a new one begins! But, seriously...how many 'coming out' scenes can you take in one film?!?

Tunde's character arc is utterly bamboozling...going from an affable Dr Jekyll to a scurrilous Mr Hyde without rhyme or reason - outing your lover to friends and family ain't gonna win you no fans! Steven Silver [as Tunde] does the best he can with the material...which is akin to being intermittently spoon-fed and preached at...all at the same time. 

This obituary needed less chapters and more depth...and, reasoning. Shame...because there really is a good story screaming to be told...coherently.


Trailer...

The(ir) Blurb...

A gay African American teenager is forced to relive, over and over again, the day he is shot and killed at the hands of the police, in Ali LeRoi’s incisive and urgent feature debut.

Tunde Johnson departed this life 9:38pm, May 28th, 2020 at the hands of police officers in Los Angeles, California.

Perhaps the only fate worse than death is having to relive it more than once. In this major, timely theatrical debut by Ali LeRoi (co-creator of TV's Everybody Hates Chris), teenager Tunde Johnson (Steven Silver) becomes trapped in a bizarre time loop that has him experiencing his school day and horrific fate over and over again.

On the day of Tunde's death — which we begin to witness differently as he chooses different paths — a number of events occurred: Tunde attended his film seminar, he visited his secret boyfriend Soren (Spencer Neville), and he found the strength to come out to his supportive parents. But high school is never easy: Soren isn't ready to come out, and he's "dating" Tunde's best friend Marley (Nicola Peltz), making Tunde's life as a gay Black man in America even harder — and more confusing — than it already is.

Nigerian-born Stanley Kalu wrote this screenplay as a 19-year-old student at USC and he smartly uses the Groundhog Day-esque structure to deconstruct the everyday threats of racism, homophobia, and police brutality all too prevalent in American society. Through all this, the film gently reminds us (as Tunde is repeatedly told) that he has so much ahead of him to live for. LeRoi expertly blends style and cool contemplation, instilling this story with a welcome optimism while empowering the film's relevant, incisive commentary on growing up Black and gay in America in the 21st century.

MICHAEL LERMAN

Cast & Characters

Steven Silver as Tunde Johnson
Spencer Neville as Soren O'Connor
Nicola Peltz as Marley Meyers
David James Elliott as Alfred O'Connor
Joey Pollari as Charlie
Sammi Rotibi as Ade Johnson
Tembi Locke as Yomi Johnson
Shalin Agarwal as Mr. Sodhi
Shoniqua Shandai as Keisha Rivera
Dior Allen as Marcus Harrison
Micah Hauptman as Ray
Matthew Bellows as Calvin
Christen Harper as Caroline
Taylor Hannum as Frances
Arianna Ngnomire as Sydnee Harris
Nefetari Spencer as Linda
Alessandra Rosaldo as Dr. Martinez
Spencer Watson as Taylor