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Jason A. Rodriguez,
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A teenage black male (Luka Cain) who just lost his father struggles to find his sexual identity in the urban jungle that is New York City. His journey is further complicated by a mom who is too busy working; a pious, verbally-abusive aunt and caretaker; a snitching 8-year-old brother; and bully male classmates.
At its core, Saturday Church is a touching coming-of-age drama/musical (I think) that despite its flaws, does a great job at tugging at the heartstrings of viewers. However, after having seen other LGBTQ films over the past few years such as Moonlight and Blackbird, I find Saturday Church to be very unpolished by comparison in a number of areas.
First off, dealing with such taboo subject matter, the tone is obviously very heavy and uncomfortable at times. And that's OK because this is what we deal with in the LGBTQ community. However, there are times when this very effective tone is abruptly disrupted by musical numbers which seem out of place here. This film could easily have worked without the musical scenes. To me, it's as if the creators of the film couldn't decide if they wanted to make this a full on musical or not so they just threw in a few musical scenes as a compromise. I wish they would have committed one way or the other as it's very obvious they couldn't.
Additionally, the script was very dry and awkward in places. The acting and dialogue suffered as a result, although I must commend the cast because everyone was at least good. Now imagine how great the acting could have been if the material was airtight. That said, Luka Kain did an excellent job here, and I will be looking forward to seeing him in other roles as he grows in the film industry.
Anyway, the biggest thing this film has going for it (other than the cast) is it accurately details the real-life story of so many LGBTQ individuals in the United States (if not dramatically). LGBTQ often struggle and fight to be who they are in a society, where even today, we are sometimes seen as outcasts and treated as such. Thankfully, the tides are turning, but IMHO, not fast enough. However, films like Saturday Church and the aforementioned Moonlight and Blackbird are shedding light on the subject, and for that alone, it scores big in my heart.
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