The problem with films about the black community in America is that their problems are so similar as to make cinema on the race seems like a community affair. Every film is about the Black Identity and the search for self-worth in a hostile racist environment.
In All Day & A Night a young black man Jahkor, played by Ashton Sanders who shot to fame with Moonlight, is the ghetto boy whose father works hard with a stick on his son’s back to ensure the boy doesn’t end up trapped in the stagnant ruinous environment. And when Dad asks if he has been too harsh, son I supposed reply in the negative.
Jahkor has his own plans on how to lead his life. Before we know it his life propels out of control and he ends up in jail for manslaughter after killing fellow-blacks in what seems like senseless shoot-out.
Motivations are hard to decode in this film that takes our presence and participation for granted. This is an insider’s view of what it feels like to be ghettoized in one’s home-territory. The rhythm is purposely uneven. Jahkor’s present and past are defined by a uniform code of brutality.
Amidst this chaos of internalized violence we are expected to empathize with Jahkor’s predicament. But we don’t know him well enough to care about him. And he doesn’t seem to care whether we care or not.Ashton Sander’s performance is characterized by a defiant arrogance. He dares us to ignore him and at the same time challenges us to try and penetrate his criminal environment.
By the time Jahkor’s life comes completely undone we stop caring about his future, because he doesn’t seem to have one. There is a plot-defining irony here that is supposed to move us. Jahkor and father James (Jeffrey Wright) are incarcerated in the same prison and the brutal dad makes every effort to save his son’s skin from the hostility in the prison.
All Day & A Night makes it difficult for us to keep track of the supporting characters. They are largely blurred emblems of corrosive criminality. The redemptive spirit is so lost in din of the plot that I was caught frequently wondering at the purposelessness of the exercise. What a wasted opportunity to portray wasted lives!