Combustible Celluloid Review - A Thousand and One (2023), A.V. Rockwell, A.V. Rockwell, Teyana Taylor, Will Catlett, Josiah Cross, Aven Courtney, Aaron Kingsley Adetola, Terri Abney
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With: Teyana Taylor, Will Catlett, Josiah Cross, Aven Courtney, Aaron Kingsley Adetola, Terri Abney
Written by: A.V. Rockwell
Directed by: A.V. Rockwell
MPAA Rating: R for language
Running Time: 116
Date: 03/31/2023

A Thousand and One (2023)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Ticking Time Mom

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A feature writing and directing debut by filmmaker A.V. Rockwell, A Thousand and One is a powerhouse drama, touching on the same subject matter as Savanah Leaf's Earth Mama — i.e. Black women struggling with their children stuck in the broken foster system — but it goes in an entirely different direction. In 1994, Inez de la Paz (Teyana Taylor) is released from prison and finds her six-year-old son Terry (Aaron Kingsley Adetola) living in a foster home. When he goes to the hospital, she visits him, and decides to abduct him. As of 2001, Inez is living with an old boyfriend, Lucky (William Catlett) who genuinely seems to love and support Terry, while the thirteen-year-old (Aven Courtney) excels at school. By 2005, things begin to come unraveled when 17-year-old Terry (Josiah Cross) tries to use his forged social security and birth certificate to apply for a job. Rockwell directs with courage and compassion, mostly avoiding soapiness by focusing on emotions that stem from the characters, rather than on hitting story beats or delivering messages. She doesn't always succeed; the film does flare over-the-top every so often, but only briefly. Taylor is the secret weapon here. She's gorgeous and ferocious and never hits a false note. Catlett is also key, depicting the opposite of what most "Mom's boyfriends" in movies are like, kind, caring, and perhaps a little lost. On a personal note, I think I preferred the lyricism of Earth Mama to the hard, cold realism of A Thousand and One, but they're both superb films.

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