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By KJ Doughton | May 31, 2006

“Early in the Morning” is a well-intentioned but slow-as-molasses tragedy, which follows a duo of African boys en route to disaster. After weathering years of impoverished boredom, impatient teenaged buddies Yaguine (Mamoudo Camara) and Fode (Sory Kandla Kouyate) take extreme measures to improve their lots in life.

Based on an actual incident, the movie is narrated by Khesso (Amy Boiro), the boys’ sullen female friend, who relies on her peanut stand earnings to scrape by. Grounded in a natural, documentary style, and free of flash, director Gahite Fofana offers an authentic sense of the throwaway, nearly invisible roles dealt to these children. With Western images of glamour and prosperity taunting them from billboards, radio, and television, it’s easy to understand their final, urgent push for something better.

Too bad the film feels loose and padded, lacking the forward momentum and narrative juice to drive its emotional, politically charged message. Do we lament the heartbreaking fate of these two young idealists? Of course. The story of Yaguine and Fode deserves to be told. But “Early in the Morning” sells us more on its promising idea than on its dramatically inert delivery.

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