LUVU.S. Dramatic Competition*** (three stars) It seems almost sadistic to offer anything less than four stars to Candis' feaeture directorial debut LUV. On the surface, and even hours after witnessing this slow-burning film that combines the ex-con's plight with a heartbreaking coming of age story, this film has everything.
Judicious use of anamorphic lenses give us a wonderful look at the film's inner-city, Baltimore setting. The script rarely resorts to the kind of hackneyed dialogue you'd expect from a movie revolving around the criminal life. Most of impressive of all, it boasts a top-flight cast including Danny Glover and Charles S. Dutton with rap-star Common in the central adult lead. Pushing it straight over the top is the sheer delight of watching child star Michael Rainey, Jr. in full, fierce bloom as Woody, nephew to Common's tortured character of Vincent.
Determined to find his "game-changer," Vincent chooses Woody as his budding apprentice through one day in the life of gritty, crime-ridden Baltimore. Watching his uncle attempt to scrape just enough ill-gotten dollars together to get the restaurant of his dreams off the ground, we see through Woody's eyes both the gravitational pull of respect and awe he feels toward his uncle. Also achingly present is the strain and effort the 11-year-old boy expends to show no fear as Vincent demands the impossible of him. Pulsating through it all is Vincent's promise that, should Woody deliver, the little boy will eventually see his long-forgotten mother in North Carolina.