Dayveon review Devin Blackmon 1Year: 2017
Director(s): Amman Abbasi
Writer(s): Amman Abbasi, Steven Reneau
Region of Origin: US

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Rating: Unrated
Digital, Color, 75 mins

Synopsis: Dayveon spends the sweltering summer days roaming his rural Arkansas town. When he falls in with a local gang, he becomes drawn to the camaraderie and violence of their world. (Source)

Whereas most gang films gravitate towards mind-numbing violence and grit for substance, Amman Abbasi’s Dayveon dares to be the exception. Lyrical and poetic right from the start, Abbasi’s film is more tone poem than anything else. Though the story doesn’t hide its grim reality, Abbasi is more interested in the violent inner dialogue of his characters, cleverly showing a reflection of violence rather than the physical act. The result is a meditative look at self-destructive behavior but with an earned sliver of hope. Making things count, young Devin Blackmon turns in a heartfelt performance, bringing to life an impressionistic narrative with irresistible aplomb.

Reeling after his brother’s murder, 13-year-old Dayveon (Devin Blackmon) is angry and unable to face the world around him. Wandering aimlessly around rural Arkansas, he falls into the company of a local gang, eager to drown his pain with fleeting moments of distraction. Dayveon’s efforts draw him to Mook (Lachion Buckingham), the gang’s no-nonsense leader, who immediately pushes the eager amateur to the brink. As Dayveon’s spiral of self destruction begins to unravel, his actions put those around him in danger, namely his best friend Brayden (Kordell Johnson), sister Kim (Chasity Moore) and her boyfriend Brian (Dontrell Bright), the latter of whom wants the best for his girlfriend’s little brother. Eventually, Dayveon has to decide what kind of a man he wants to be, learning the hard way that you can only ignore the pain for so long.

In the best way, Abbasi’s film is light on plot, but heavy on emotional texture. The great way to view the film is as a hang-out piece, or meditative slice-of-life portrait. Using voice-overs which telegraph inner monologues and long, quiet scenes of Dayveon navigating the wilderness of his rural town, Abbasi finds lyricism through through the mundane. There’s also a deliberate contrast between Dayveon’s turbulent gang activities, and the fleeting moments of respite that come from his home life. With such an impressionistic approach, the film’s most commanding ideas come in to form with what isn’t being said. Instead, what we feel from Abbasi’s immersive structure pays off, illustrating a world in which our actions trickle into the lives of others and grace lies just beyond reach, but not impossible to grasp.

Dayveon review Devin Blackmon 2Making everything click, is a talented cast who overflows with sincerity. Anchoring the entire thing, Devin Blackmon is hard to look away from. Though he isn’t playing a completely likable character, he has a magnetic presence that truthfully portrays pain, grief and frustration. With such complex emotions at his command, Blackmon makes his ordeal feel universal, drawing us into his world and making us feel the weight of it. Opposite, Lachion Buckingham channels a sense of anger that turns his abstract villain into a lived-in person. Not once does he feel like a generic trope, but always a force of tension with very primal aspirations. Dontrell Bright steals the few scenes he’s in as Brian, a surrogate father/older brother for Dayveon who always has his best interest in mind .Together, the pair share a beautiful, evolving friendship that gives the film its heart and soul.

Dayveon is a bold film that tackles its subject matter from a refreshing perspective. At a time when darkness seems to come from every corner, Abbasi’s finds a way to transcend dark roots and shine. There isn’t any sensationalism or forced drama here, just a reminder that even though the world is filled with pain and sadness, there are also forces of good out there, if we’re willing to let them break through.