Morris from America was recommended to me by a student of mine. The film is a coming of age story with a dash of fish out of water. There are subtitles so if that’s something that scares you away give pause, but I recommend you grab your reading glasses and strap in for a good movie. Morris from America is written and directed by Chad Hartigan and is currently available to stream on Amazon Video for free with Prime. I give Morris from America the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.
Morris From America is a really great coming of age story
Morris Gentry (Markees Christmas) is a 13-year-old American living in Germany with his dad Curtis (Craig Robinson) who is a coach on a soccer team. He is learning German with a tutor, Inka (Carla Juri), and she encourages him to make some friends. Morris is shy, but is drawn to Katrin (Lina Keller), a girl he meets at a youth club. She is living a rebellious life and brings Morris a long for an adventure he isn’t quite prepared for.
I’ve been a fan of Craig Robinson for a while. However, I don’t think I’ve really seen him in a role like this before. A single father living in Germany definitely has some challenges to overcome. The movie opens with Curtis introducing Morris so some hip hop from his time. It’s an endearing scene that ends with Curtis grounding Morris for not liking the music. Only a few minutes later he un-grounds him and they go get ice cream. It establishes their relationship that will playout for the rest of the movie. Curtis is lost trying to be a father and a friend to his son that he knows is unhappy with their move to Germany. Robinson nails this role and makes for a charming, likeable father.
Markees Christmas does a terrific job of showing emotion. Sometimes the character got on my nerves because he wouldn’t open up, but that’s a bitter 13-year-old. He clearly wants to express himself, but is afraid of the potential reactions he may receive. Morris loves hip-hop and rap music, but doesn’t get past the superficial lyrics of some of the songs. Curtis sees some lyrics that Morris wrote that is over the top and misogynistic. Morris thinks he’s in trouble for the language, but Curtis points out that the lyrics are lies. He encourages Morris to tell his own story about the problems he has rather than making up nonsense.
Music plays a major role in the film
I really love the use of music that Hartigan used to tell the narrative in this film. The hip hop culture, especially from the New York scene, clearly helps Morris define his character. Music is his friend and companion as he travels the streets of Germany with earbuds in. He calls himself a gangsta and a rapper as it is clearly part of his identity. Katrin is more into techno and electronic music, and the contrast of the genres represents the difference of the two kids. Morris finds himself at two parties where the music is techno and he couldn’t seem more out of place. Yet, there are some similarities between the two genres and, while they’re different in many ways, the rhythm that drives both connect the teens.
It’s a solid comedy and a relatable coming of age story. It’s well cast and the music adds to the story. There are several second-hand embarrassment scenes that made me look away from the TV. In a way, my reaction to moments of the film reminded me of the discomfort I felt during Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. It’s interesting and unnerving when a director casts actual teenagers in a coming of age romance. I do recommend checking this film out and let’s get Craig Robinson more roles like this so he can shine.