What happens when you’re stuck between drastically different upbringings and experiences? What happens when your children are lost to the ways of a new, and strange land? What happens when you try to make the right choices but end up making the wrong ones anyway? Anthony Onah’s The Price tries to answer at least some of these questions.
Starring Kidulthood’s own Aml Ameen, The Price is the quintessential Third Culture Kid story for east coast folks who went to a liberal arts college in the tri-state or further down the coast at a “small college in Boston.” Stuck between the humble immigrant experience of his parents and the increasingly high-pressure environment of stocks trading, Seyi deals with big drama in small moments. From his family’s incessant requests–money, time, understanding–to the classic “be three times as good as the white folks” story that plays out at work, Seyi is exhausted. And it shows. Besides his laughable American accent (I was lost to figure out where it was tied to. It’s “urban” but has no regional grounding that makes everything feel weird), Aml Ameen does an incredible job of revealing the slow burn of stress and anxiety that this kind of life brings on.
“Granted, there aren’t many films that explicitly focus on the first generation African experience…”
It’s good because the script itself is grating at times, working to explain pretty pedestrian experiences to people who may or may not know what a considerable amount of minorities experience day-to-day. I also say grating here because it’s not like we haven’t had a slew of “minority struggles in high-flying spaces while trying to grapple with their upbringing” before, a la Higher Learning, The Great Debaters, and more recently, Dear White People. Granted, there aren’t many films that explicitly focus on the first generation African experience, so there’s always room for more (as there should be.)
Thus, I don’t want to beat up on The Price. Onah has a clear soft spot in his heart for this semi-autobiographical narrative. And when the film is allowed to be, the quietest moments have the greatest impact. Much like Andrew Dosunmu’s Restless City, The Price is best when it lets the characters breathe and exist in space, often with little to no dialogue. Seyi’s breakdown, as he cries fully clothed in a shower, speaks volumes that a stilted conversation about race relations and Obama with a white date ever could.
“Seyi’s breakdown, as he cries fully clothed in a shower, speaks volumes that a stilted conversation about race relations and Obama with a white date ever could.”
Sadly, there’s a rhetorical hammer to be swung in The Price, and at times Onah doesn’t pull back enough. By jamming the film full of little “Message!” moments, he nearly tarnishes the true heart of the film: the concept of liminal identities and familial ties, and how they can constrict and engender growth.
That said, the film is a good start and a meaningful addition to the plethora of black experiences in seas of privilege and whiteness whilst finding some concrete form of identity. And will undoubtedly lay the groundwork for Onah to explore more of these themes throughout his career.
The Price (2017) Directed by Anthony Onah. Written by Anthony Onah. Starring Lucy Griffiths, Aml Ameen, Michael Hyatt.
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