Cyprus-born Chad Hartigan is a bit of an unknown in the filmmaking world but has already had moderate success at various independent film festivals. His 2013 feature This is Martin Bonner won the Best of NEXT Audience Award at Sundance and the John Cassavetes Award at Film Independent Spirit Awards. His latest feature, starring US comedian Craig Robinson, is a coming-of-age tale that won the Waldo Salt Award for Screenwriting at this year’s Sundance Festival.
Morris from America follows 13-year old Morris (Markees Christmas), an aspiring rapper who lives in a small, predominately Caucasian town in Germany with his father Curtis (Robinson).
A classic fish-out-of-water tale, Hartigan deals with the troubles of being a kid. First love, making friends, fitting in – throw in a language barrier and cultural difficulties and it makes being a teenager a challenge. Through his pretty direction and careful screenplay, he balances themes such as isolation and growing up with sensitivity without going into the predictable routes of racial and social prejudice, despite the familiarity of certain plot elements such as Curtis’s on-stage triumph and peer pressure. However, it would benefit from a more solid structure with a clearer angle in terms of its characters.
In terms of casting, Christmas plays Curtis with an endearing shyness and his relatable chemistry with Robinson represents the heart of the film. Carla Juri’s Inka provides the emotional support that Curtis needs to fit in, while fresh-faced Katrin (Lina Keller) resembles a siren similar to the Lisbon sisters in The Virgin Suicides, whose dreamy eyes and indifferent attitude to Curtis is both intriguing and beguiling.
Overall, Morris from America is sweet and offbeat, giving a new take on growing up.
Director: Chad Hartigan
Stars: Markees Christmas, Craig Robinson, Lina Keller, Carla Juri
Runtime: 91 minutes
Country: USA, Germany
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