Past catches up with the present in “Big Words,” pointing its characters toward an uncertain future. After having performed together as a hip-hop trio in the early ‘90s, James (Gbenga Akinnagbe) can’t put it far enough behind him, while John (Dorian Missick) and Terry (Darien Sills-Evans) have each struggled to move forward. Writer-director Neil Drumming gives each character a fully formed story of his own, aided by strong, lively performances from his entire cast.
In a way, the film has something thematically in common with last year’s little-seen David Chase film “Not Fade Away” in that both deal with the lessons of not making it, how not achieving success has its own set of emotional pitfalls and hard-earned wisdom.
At times it seems that setting the film on the November 2008 election night when Barack Obama was elected to his first term as president is some sort of affectation, an attempt at giving the story some additional anchor. The conceit emerges as something more resonant, encapsulating the possibility of change while also articulating the idea of moving forward.
Drumming is a former entertainment journalist making his feature film debut as writer-director with “Big Words” and while the freshness of his writing is the real strength here, his visual style is at least unobtrusive, never getting in the way of allowing his actors to bring life to their scenes. Because “Big Words” gets a lot of the little details right, like a DJ splicing together incongruous samples that shouldn’t go together but somehow do, Drumming is able to swing from lighter comedic moments to dramatic insights while making it seem effortless.
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 1 hour and 34 minutes
Playing: At the Downtown Independent