Algee Smith and Sierra Capri Scorch in Young. Wild. Free.
A courageous and well-crafted feature debut following her short film Baldwin Beauty, Emmy nominated writer-director Thembi Banks’ Young. Wild. Free. draws you in taking you along for the ride. The bold, saturated color scheme and precision cinematography from Cary Lalonde and Dennis Zanatta combined create a unique visual experience that elevates this relentless story of adolescence and independence.
Brandon (Algee Smith) is a typical high schooler whose life is anything but typical. He’s struggling academically, lost his job at Burger Bang and cares for his two younger siblings as his mother Janice (Sanaa Lathan) has her own struggles. Using art as an escape from the limitations of his complicated life, Brandon encounters the gorgeously, alluring Cassidy (Sierra Capri) – a bedazzled bad girl dripping in confidence, freedom, and danger. Lured in by her whimsical adventurous nature, Brandon seamlessly slips into the role of Clyde to Capri’s Bonnie as they make their way down an increasingly perilous path.
In addition to tapping into what seemed to be an underlying cinematic theme for Sundance 2023 – mental illness and black men, Banks’ direction also touches upon the pressures some kids take encounter, where they are expected to take on the role of being the parent due to no fault of their own. So, Brandon’s mind chooses to escape rather than face the harsh realities.
Algee Smith and Sierra Capri have symbiotic chemistry that is so palpable it literally leaps off the screen. Smith only scratched the surface in “Detroit” a few years back, but with this film stretches his talents further setting the bar even higher for his future endeavors. Sierra Capri has a minx quality that works vey well for Cassidy making it impossible to keep your eyes off her in any scene. Sanaa Lathan scorches as a Mom doing the best she can, yet setting for what she thinks is all she deserves in the life she has been given. It’s a huge departure and very welcomed departure for her characterization wise on the big screen in which she more than adequately rises to the occasion.
What Banks mostly succeeds in is crafting a film that doesn’t waste time getting to the heart of the matter. From the first frame to the last, the suspenseful nature in which she unravels the story is intriguing, captivating coupled with a sense of humor to lighten it up. This, I can promise you – Young.Wild.Free. will blow your mind and invigorate your senses in the best way possible.