Showing at Sundance London, LUV is a coming-of-age gangster film from first-time feature Director Sheldon Candis.
Set in urban Baltimore, LUV is about 11-year-old Woody played by talented newcomer Michael Rainey Jr. Woody lives with his grandmother and hopes for his absent mother to return from living in North Carolina. At the young age of 11, his only problems revolve around school, girls and sports. Without a male role model, Woody is excited when his Uncle Vincent (Common) is released from prison after eight years. Vincent encourages Woody to skip school to spend the day with him in some male bonding.
Despite good intentions, Vincent’s plans to go legit, by getting a bank loan to start a business, rapidly transform into him having to revisit his old criminal ways to borrow the money he needs.
LUV looks at how violence can be learned and also about it’s addictive nature, about how it is easy to look at the criminal lifestyle as an option, especially in communities where there are very few opportunities. A morality tale to the young and those who should know better.
It’s at this point that it stops being an indie sociocultural portrait and begins to turn into an underworld action thriller. What follows is a number of standoffs; mental, physical and mexican.
What starts off sweet, intelligent and considered quickly loses it’s believability and the plot ends somewhat implausibly.
Any depiction of crime in Baltimore city is already at a disadvantage because of the high bar HBO’s series ‘The Wire’ set. Although the “coming of age in a disadvantaged community” story isn’t breaking new ground, it’s enough to make it an entertaining story to sustain it through the hour and a half running time. The focus on character meant that some of the other aspects of the production were left unchecked. The camera work was so shaky I personally physically felt sick. Which is unfortunate because it rendered the film almost unwatchable despite all the effort and talent that has clearly gone into it.
The performances were heartfelt and genuine. Young Actor Michael Rainey Jr. showing promise as an actor with a massive future in the business. Strong performance also from rapper-actor Common as Vincent and an impressive supporting cast that includes Danny Glover and Dennis Haysbert. LUV occupies this strange no man’s land between indie film and gangster thriller and between reality and complete and utter fiction, it’s definitely one thing, gripping.
LUV stars Common and Michael Rainey Jr. and they’re joined by Dennis Haysbert, Danny Glover, Charles S. Dutton, Lonette McKee and Michael Kenneth Williams.