Review: “Morris From America” Tells A Complete Story; Albeit At A Slower Pace



Title: Morris From America
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Interesting, Thought-Provoking, Good Acting, Strong Writing and Directing.


Won't Appeal To A Large Audience, Could Easily Miss Its Emotional Mark, Tries To Do Too Much.

Posted September 2, 2016 by

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In a nutshell, “Morris From America” is a story about the difficulties that come with growing up, and the hardships of being a single parent trying to raise that growing child all by yourself. Add on the fact that Morris Gentry (Markees Christmas) and his father, Curtis (Craig Robinson), are Americans living in Germany and being misunderstood is now not only a teenager thing, but a way of life. At the insistence of his German language teacher, Inka (Carla Juri), Morris joins a class that is supposed to make him feel more comfortable being around German kids and their way of life but instead alienates him in ways no one was thinking about. Life is hard. It’s how you deal with it that makes you who you are. 

an emotional film

While the premise of the film — Morris having lost his mother and Curtis his wife now trying to make life work — is pretty bleak, writer/director Chad Hartigan is able to still fit in moments of comedy that break up the moments that tend to get a little too real. He makes sure that his characters are sympathetic (even when they’re being unreasonable) and the finished product is a cast of characters that feel like people I know in my every day life. It would have been easy to let the story weigh everything down and have the film come out more as a dark drama, but Hartigan kept it just light enough to keep me interested and entertained. “Morris From America” is a good movie and that’s all I can ask for. A great movie is one that you think of long after you’ve watched it, one you bring up in casual conversations and quote from time-to-time. Good movies keep you hooked for as long as it’s going on. And bad movies do neither. Even though this film didn’t impress me to the point where I thought about it after it was over, it still kept me in the moment while everything was playing out.

The one thing about this movie that is the deciding factor on whether the viewer likes it or not is if they can relate to either the story, the characters or the emotion. I was able to relate to all three and it made it more of an emotional film for me because it brought me back to moments in my life that I hadn’t thought of in a long time. If it fails to get you to reminisce, it will fail to keep you interested and “Morris From America” toes that line pretty closely so I can see understand both views. If the emotion doesn’t hit for you then scenes involving Morris and the girl he has a crush on, Katrin (Lina Keller), will seem tedious and boring. The subtly tense moments he has with his father, where both are trying to come to terms with Morris growing up, will come off as preachy or insincere. And the overall sense of feeling lost in a place you call home will pass right by the viewer and make for a boring watch.

Markees Christmas is definitely an actor to keep an eye on. This young man carries the film on his shoulders and at no point seems worried that the film’s success relies on him portraying his character at the highest level. When you cast a lead, especially a young one, that doesn’t bring that level of human emotion to a character, you have a movie that can’t find its audience no matter how hard it tries to. Craig Robinson is less ‘Craig Robinson-y’ in this film than he has been in projects past and that’s a good thing. He’s one of the funnier actors working today, and an underrated one if you ask my opinion, but he’s able to dial it back just enough to effectively plays the part of concerned father and trying to be a best friend to his son at the same time and make it come across as genuine.

Unfortunately, for as much as I like her as an actress, Carla Juri’s character seems like the one they didn’t need at all. Yes, Inka is the one that gets him to go to the class that introduces him to the ‘bully’ of sorts that he deals with for much of the film and the girl that he ends up having a crush on, but they could have gotten to that point in a number of ways. Other than pushing him to go, Inka is more of a kind of therapist to Morris that comes off feeling forced and misplaced. Even Morris’s father tells her to just teach him German and not worry about anything else. I understand that Hartigan was trying to show the comparison of how dealing with relationships and feeling out of place are not just an age thing, but the film had so much else already going on that I don’t think it needed this dynamic. 

just light enough to keep me interested

The stuido behind “Morris From America”, A24, seems driven to put out interesting films that test the audience; making them get invested in the film emotionally as well as mentally. It’s a theme that has paid off with movies like “Room“, “The Witch“, “Green Room” and “Swiss Army Man“. For ones like “Morris From America”, it won’t pay off as much, but the thought is still there.





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