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Brooklyn Film Festival Review - "My Last Day Without You" (Nicole Beharie, Ken Duken)

by Tambay A. Obenson
June 13, 2011 9:12 AM
12 Comments
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My Last Day Without You is a film we've covered quite a bit here on S&A. The indie flick starring Nicole Beharie and Ken Duken, premiered this past weekend at the Brooklyn Film Festival, screening to sold out audiences on both Saturday and Sunday.

While I was certainly planning to attend on either night, I couldn't; but thankfully, reader and filmmaker in her own right Kia T. Barbee was able to, and did, seeing it twice! So, I asked her to essentially "represent" for S&A and write up her thoughts on the film so that I could post here for the rest of you to read.

And that's exactly what I've done below. I do plan to eventually see the film myself, likely via a screener, and I'll share my own thoughts then. But, in the meantime, here's what Kia had to say about My Last Day Without You.

As posted on My Last Day Without You’s facebook fan page, the synopsis reads as follows:

On a one-day business trip to New York, a German business executive falls in love with a singer-songwriter who exposes him to her Brooklyn world and emotions he's never experienced before.

A refreshing spin on love, attraction and chance

I had the opportunity to view My Last Day Without You at the Brooklyn Film Festival (June 3-12). This is a movie that would’ve surely passed me by had I not been an admirer of Nicole Beharie’s acting; but the film is full of delightful surprises.

What you might think will be yet another interracial romantic farce, turns out to be the least of the couple’s barriers. Yes, they have cultural differences, which play out mostly through misunderstood terms. For example, Leticia (Beharie), called “Tisha” throughout, had to explain what “getting with you” meant to Niklas (Duken). There are few moments like this that creep up when you least expect them to, but positively so.

The couple meets so abruptly and no time is wasted honing in on the fact that their sexual attraction is a huge magnet. There are no forced moments of falling in love. It’s mostly Niklas’ goal to make amends that brings out the sincere emotional attraction from them both. This is where the story could go cliché, but continues to linger in a familiar way… how many people fight the instinct towards emotional healing, but brush it off as something else?

In fact the story ends sharply ambiguous. Yes, the right choice is made, but will the couple chance for a lifetime or just an extended moment? We’ll only assume… it’s a timeless chance.

A parallel love subplot between Tisha’s father, Pastor Johnson and his secretary, Luz, further sustains the theme of love that gels. Their interaction is just as fun and intriguing as Niklas and Leticia, but there’s a clear juxtaposition between the cautious younger couple and the mature acceptance of love from the older couple.

The backdrop and driving force of the film involves job loss, but it’s not such a crutch that interferes with the impending outcomes that follow the 24 hour lifespan of its main characters.

The chemistry between the leads (Ken Duken and Nicole Beharie) fit like a glove with an equally deserved mention to Laith Nakli as a hired romantic guru cab driver and declared comic relief.

Reg Cathey, as Nicole’s Pastor dad brought a sentimental touch.

If you live in Brooklyn, particularly south of Washington Avenue, Bushwick or Prospect Heights, you’ll enjoy pinpointing all the recognizable locations.

The music was soulfully inviting and beautifully song by Beharie.

The director, Stefan Schaefer hinted at the possibility of a soundtrack… sign me up!

My only complaint was the useless jealous ex-boyfriend who had no purpose (at least to me) other than to drop off our German friend in the “projects” (mind you Tisha doesn’t live in the projects, but rather a studio loft) to fend for himself. These moments are comic, but not needed as an added blockage to Niklas ultimate decision to stay or go. I’m sure he would’ve run into those same characters (a group of cool African American young children, drug dealing teen, etc) he encountered on his mission to re-locate Tisha after she finds out an unfortunate truth. The Niklas character was so well defined; he didn’t need “extra” blockages. He ultimately was his own obstruction.

All in all, My Last Day Without You falls in line with a new wave of sensible stories with a diverse cast of characters that don’t need to use “race” as the cinematic conflict that binds the story. Niklas could have easily been a “brother”, but making him a German just ups the conflict ante, though it doesn’t sustain it.

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12 Comments

  • Phred G | August 5, 2013 8:57 PMReply

    WOW! Nicole Beharie can SING TOO?! As you can see from the post date I am a tad late-to-the-party on NB. I gather by now we know your psychic efforts have paid off (Apartment 4E, WTALOT7D, Sleepy Hollow). May her star continue to rise.

  • Omeika | May 16, 2012 4:58 PMReply

    WOW this movie is soooo inspiring, it had me in tears, it had me smiling, it had me cracking up, i had to tell a friend about it. I love it!!! it really touched me :)

  • Yolanda | July 9, 2011 5:49 AMReply

    I will be keeping my eye out on the film's release. I hope it does not go straight to DVD. This looks like a winner and Ken Duken is gorgeous!

  • marc spencer | June 16, 2011 11:43 AMReply

    Sorry, but Ken Duken is amazing!! Have you seen his website, or his clips on youtube? i am talking about some serious acting here!!

  • A | June 14, 2011 12:20 PMReply

    @ Vanessa

    I'm adding my brain waves to yours, maybe we can make this happen! :) I just like her so much - the hair, the talent, everything.

    Come on Nicole - we're all rooting for you!!

  • Vanessa | June 14, 2011 11:22 AMReply

    @mulletlove

    YESS ...Miss Beharie has a big and exciting career ahead of her. I have a really good feeling about this. I'm using my mental powers everyday to make her a superstar. :-)

  • Nadell | June 14, 2011 4:58 AMReply

    Your preview makes me want to see this even more!
    Nicole Beharie is steadily making waves!

  • MulletLove | June 13, 2011 12:43 PMReply

    Would really love to see it again, if possible, sometime in the near future. Another feather in Ms. Beharie's cap. Dare we hope for even bigger (more compelling) things for this young lady?

  • James Madison | June 13, 2011 12:23 PMReply

    I really wanted to see this in the theater. Good to see the positive review.

  • Vanessa | June 13, 2011 9:46 AMReply

    I've heard really good things so far! I'm really glad it doesn't seem to be a run of the mill, predictable rom-com.

    I really hope it gets wide distribution in the U.S. I can't wait to see it.

    Anyways, thanks for getting a representative to review the movie! You know I love me some Nicole Beharie. :-)

  • Kia | June 13, 2011 9:34 AMReply

    Thanks for the opportunity Tambay.

  • MulletLove | June 13, 2011 9:34 AMReply

    I also saw My Last Day this weekend (though the night I went Nicole was not able to attend), and I wanted more, more, more! Such a refreshing little romantic comedy that you find yourself absolutely rooting for Tischa and Niklas to hook up long-term. I could stare at Nicole Beharie all day (and I'm a straight chick, lol!), and Ken Duken's Niklas is smoulderingly sexy, but with just enough of a touch of math-geek goofiness to take that edge off and make him even more appealing. Not exactly Hepburn and Tracy, mind you, but cool enough just as they are.

    The realistic--read "colorful" New York/Brooklyn in the film was a welcome breath of relief, as the joint actually looks like the city I see whenever I walk the streets there (the anti-Friends, perhaps?). Nice performances by Reg E. Cathey, Laith Nakli, Marlene Forte, and yeah, even Lawrence St. Victor (just happy to see him in something again, fine boy he is!) round out the film. All in all, a very cozy, very sweet film. A good way to spend some time in a theatre. I hope it gets its chance out there in the wider world. Peace!

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