Thursday, August 29, 2019

The supernatural can’t save ‘Don’t Let Go’

When Don’t Let Go premiered at last January’s Sundance Film Festival, the movie had a different title. It was called Relive. I don’t think the title change did much to make the movie better or more comprehensible. A crime thriller with a bit of supernatural blood running through its veins, Don’t Let Go quickly becomes a muddle of a movie in which a Los Angeles detective (David Oyelowo) tries to undo the murder of a much-loved niece. How is this possible? We'll get to that. Early on, we learn that Oyelowo’s Jack has been functioning as a father figure for his teen-age niece (Storm Reid). He's filling in for his bipolar, drug-addicted brother (an underused Brian Tyree Henry). When Jack discovers that his niece has been brutally murdered along with her parents, he’s thrown into the steep canyons of grief. But wait. Oyelowo's Jack receives a mysterious phone call originating from his niece's cell phone. Disbelieving, he hunts down her phone and learns that his niece is still alive in a reality that's unfolding three days before his own reality. Jack attempts to use phone conversations with his niece to bridge the time gap, hoping that he can help save her life. Still with me? If not, it doesn't really matter. Director Jacob Aaron Estes doesn't clarify much as he shrouds his story in dreariness that he occasionally interrupts with bloody sprays of violence. Both Oyelowo and Reid often are seen talking on their phones, a choice that results in many confused looks as Oyelowo and Reid strain to reflect the confusion each of their characters experiences. Too violent to be heart-warming and more constricted than emboldened by its premise, Don’t Let Go seems destined to disappear into the miasmic vapors of movies that are streamed by those who'll give it a shot because they know Oyelowo (Selma) can be an interesting actor. Mykelti Williamson signs on as a fellow cop and Alfred Molina portrays Jack's detective boss.

No comments: