Written and Performed by Sigur Rós (as Sigur Ros)
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uneven film with a star-making performance by Michael Rainey, Jr.
Artfully directed by Sheldon Candis," LUV" is a compelling, low-budget tale of Vincent, a recently released convict who takes his young nephew, Woody, on a day-long excursion through Baltimore to give him lessons on how to survive in the urban jungle that is his home (Woody's mother lives in North Carolina while his grandmother is currently raising him in Maryland). This includes, among other things, teaching him how to drive and how to shoot a gun. But the main focus is on Vincent's attempts to go straight and to secure a loan for a restaurant he wants to open. But the young man soon discovers that it isn't all that easy to cut the ties with one's criminal past, and Woody bears witness to some pretty horrendous events throughout the course of the day.
Taken as a whole, "LUV" is considerably less than the sum of its parts. The screenplay by Candis feels strangely doughy and underdeveloped, often leaving us bewildered as to what exactly Vincent is up to and who it is he's interacting with at any given moment. That being said, "LUV" manages to hold our interest due to the immediacy of its style and the naturalism of its performances. Common makes us care about Vincent; we see him as an ambitious young man who, despite his natural inclination towards crime - an inclination obviously resulting from the difficult circumstances in which he was raised - appears to be genuinely trying to turn his life around. That the world and his past seem to be conspiring against him is what makes the tale so poignant. Vincent may not be the perfect role model for his young nephew, but he is probably the best the boy is going to have for the foreseeable future.
But it is young Michael Rainey, Jr., in a star-making performance as Woody, who walks off with the film. Even at the tender young age of eleven, Rainey is already a natural in front of the camera and it is his wholly believable reactions to what is taking place around him that strike a responsive chord in the viewer. Indeed, we are willing to go on this structurally awkward and artistically uneven journey simply for the privilege of reveling in his performance. Rainey, in essence, becomes the thread holding all these seemingly random and arbitrary events together. One looks forward to great things from him in the future.
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