THINGS NEVER SAID Cast: Shanola Hampton (Kalindra Stephney), Omari Hardwick (Curtis Jackson), Elimu Nelson (Ronnie), Tamala Jones (Daphne), Michael Beach (Will Jackson), Dorian Missick (Steve), Charlayne Woodard (Charlotte), Tom Wright (Daniel) Written & Directed by: Charles Murray Rated: R Ohio Street Pictures
I might as well get out the disclosure right up front: I have known Things Never Said writer/director Charles Murray for well over fifteen years, and at every turn of his career (executive at Magic Johnson’s production company, television writer on Third Watch and Criminal Minds, independent filmmaker) I have rooted for him. Charles is smart, funny and more than a bit of an unapologetic iconoclast, which could only mean two things for him – career suicide or artistic success. After seeing Things Never Said, I am thrilled to report he is a creative force only beginning to mine the gifts he has to share with this world.
The story of Things Never Said is deceptively simple: Kalindra (Shanola Hampton), a young woman haunted by a miscarriage and stuck in a bad marriage to former basketball star Ronnie (Elimu Nelson), seeks an outlet through spoken-word poetry. Kal succumbs to an affair with Curtis (Omari Hardwick), a fellow poet who seems to see into her soul, but has his own heavy baggage Kal may not want to take on. While that might sound prosaic and maybe even a little pretentious (note: the poetry is extremely well-performed and relatable, so if you weren’t a poetry fan before, you will be after this), what’s special about this movie is the nuanced, complex and unpredictable ways Murray has his characters grapple with their conflicts.
At first, you don’t want Kal to cheat on her husband – she is too intelligent and creative a woman to fall for the game the sexy-but-mysterious Curtis spits at her. But then again, you also wonder why Kal is staying with the sullen, unsupportive Ronnie, who seems to be going nowhere in his life and holding her back from hers. As the layers start to unfold, you learn not only has Ronnie gone through the hardship of losing his future, but also that Kal was brought up by her mother Charlotte (Charlayne Woodard) to believe that sticking with one’s husband no matter what is what defines a woman as a good person and wife. So when Kal finally does give in to her attraction to Curtis, they have so much chemistry and tenderness and understanding between them you want her to get away with the affair… until you realize Curtis may have even less to offer Kal than Ronnie when it’s revealed he’s an ex-con and why he landed in jail in the first place.
Actress Shanola Hampton carries the organic twists and turns of this movie so beautifully it’s surprising she’s never had a major role in a film before. She has an equally able partner in Omari Hardwick, who makes you root for Curtis despite the palpable possibility he may be more trouble than he’s worth. Which, I think, is Murray’s point – no matter how much you connect to another person and no matter how they make you feel about yourself or even challenge you to become your better self – the real romance and discovery lies within knowing and healing oneself. This is the thing not said about love – it alone does not conquer all. This is the thing not said about art or creative outlets – they alone do not solve deep issues. Kalindra is not “saved” by Curtis or her poetry, but rather, they both shed light on her path to saving and healing herself from all of the preconceived notions she’s grown up on, from all the ways she’s limited herself, and from all of the abuse she’s accepted – external and internal.
Things Never Said is an important addition to African-American independent cinema and humanistic storytelling that should not be missed. Its Los Angeles run has been extended through September 19 and the film opens in Atlanta, Boston, Washington DC, and Gary, Indiana on September 13 – TODAY! Please get out and support the movie — you can get updates on other showings around the country from thingsneversaid.com or on the Things Never Said Facebook Page. Also, check out the trailer below: