It’s remarkable that Really Love marks Felicia Pride’s first “official” script, as it’s filled with the casually-exchanged truths and witticisms of a seasoned writer. “We’re all artists as far as I’m concerned,” Isaiah says. “I just happen to paint.” He later states: “Black people create sh*t out of nothing every day. If that ain’t art, I don’t know what is.” During an incredibly steamy moment, Stevie asks Isiah: “How do you know when a painting is finished?” “How do you know when you’re making love to someone?” he responds nonchalantly, the charmer. In stark contrast to the tenderness of that exchange, the couple has a heated debate later, wherein Isiah yells, “I ain’t got people with money to fall back on!” My favorite line may be the one spoken by his mother: “Sometimes people are only in our lives for a season.”
“Black people are extraordinary and normal at the same time,” Stevie comments at the gallery. Really Love subtly explores and juxtaposes the numerous obstacles Black people face when it comes to discovering their identity, transcending stereotypes, overcoming familial influence, being in charge – and it studies those issues through the colorful, forlorn, and often lovely prism of Art. Overwhelming continuous prejudice and societal pressure, the film argues, renders it nearly impossible for Black artists to portray themselves truthfully – as both “normal and beautiful” – for, subconsciously, they’re conforming to deeply embedded societal expectations.
“…filled with casually-exchanged truths and witticisms of a seasoned writer.”
Williams touches upon other relevant notions: how economics, as most political facets in this country, is tied to race; how spirituality, anger, and the search for identity drive both art and the decisions we make; how a relationship struggles to survive when pressured not only by familial scorn but also the ongoing paradigm shift, wherein male/female stereotypes are being reversed. “He’s a man, Stevie,” her friend says of Isiah, “he doesn’t want you to help him.” Toxic masculinity flares when Stevie tells Isiah to leave her apartment. Yet it’s Stevie who ultimately has to choose between a career and a man. Isiah would never give up his dream, which is currently coming true, and relocate for Stevie.
In some ways, it brings to mind Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk. It’s not quite as assured, elegant, or penetrating, mind you. Pride’s script could have used a dash of that Blue Valentine rawness to which she was referring. But it serves as a great calling card for a team of genuinely gifted artists.
Really Love screened at the 2020 AFI Fest.
"…explores and juxtaposes the numerous obstacles Black people face...discovering their identity"