The full length film directorial debut of Shaka King is a powerful mash up of a classic soulful narrative and subtle elements of stoner comedy. Newlyweeds tells the story of Lyle (Amari Cheatom) and Nina (Trae Harris) as they go through life as a couple with a serious ‘addiction’ to smoking marijuana. A smart film that has a lot more to say behind the haze of smoke.
Lyle and Nina’s story begins with the two laying together smoking, as they do quite often, and talking about their dreams and aspirations. Lyle works as a repo man for a rent-to-own store, while Nina works a children’s guide/storyteller for a local museum. The two pondering under the blanket of weed smoke about traveling the world becoming more enlightened. There is a moment while wearing a foreign tribal mask, Nina ponders the limited use of our brains. She expounds on the ability to unlock the other cultural regions of the mind. For anyone who has been around people who are high on marijuana or have been themselves this scene was not only familiar, but bizarrely comforting at the same time. Nina, a true smoker through and through. She does it when times are good and when times are rough. She is known to “smoke like a dude” when it comes to quantity. She is a character of privilege. Growing up in what can be ascertained as an upper middle class black family. She has seen foreign lands and yearns for those opportunities again.
Lyle, however, is a man struggling to push his way out of Brooklyn to somewhere better or at least different. His work as a repo man makes for some of the more comedic moments of the film. He stalks non-paying customers to the ends of the neighborhood. He even institutes costumes to make the moments more hilarious. He has the flaws of the common man while the endearing attitude of the classic film trope of a ‘man on a mission.’ Clearly a man who has never seen much further than the edges of Brooklyn, Lyle strives to be where Nina was. He dreams with her about one day leaving all of his life behind and unlocking that part of his mind; life experience. What is the rest of the world like? Can you make it there while still smoking and dreaming about it all day? These are the most pertinent of life’s questions for Lyle.
When Lyle and Nina hit a rough patch in their journey together this is where the heart of the film really lives. Nina’s breakdown without Lyle gives her character further depth and real world tangibility. She is heartbroken but her ‘addiction’ stays true. Lyle on the other hand goes completely off the rails. His true addiction is Nina and his withdrawal is severe. Amari Cheatom does an amazing job portraying this level of loss and desperation. Like all addicts he eventually has his moment of clarity. In the end, Lyle gets what he really needed and to a large degree so does Nina. Watching the two grow and develop as people feels more like watching friends over time than fictional characters. Whether they are marijuana smokers, drinkers, drug addicts, or just people living their lives there is a simplistic sense of familiarity with the Lyle and Nina. Their struggles, their neighborhood, their friends, their dealer, their lives are the perfect representation of the modern American experience.
[easyreview title= "Review of Newlyweeds" cat1title="Jay's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="4.0" overall= false]