Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
'Chocolate City' Finally Gets a Trailer + Release Date Set (Might It Steal Some of 'Magic Mike's' Summer Thunder?) 'Chocolate City' Finally Gets a Trailer + Release Date Set (Might It Steal Some of 'Magic Mike's' Summer Thunder?) Barbie Is Honoring Ava DuVernay (and Other "Sheroes") With Her Very Own Doll. Have a Look... Barbie Is Honoring Ava DuVernay (and Other "Sheroes") With Her Very Own Doll. Have a Look... BET Unveils 2015-2016 Slate Additions: New Original Scripted & Unscripted Series, Movies, News Specials & More BET Unveils 2015-2016 Slate Additions: New Original Scripted & Unscripted Series, Movies, News Specials & More Jada Pinkett Smith's Fish Mooney Will Return to 'Gotham' Streets with a New Look & Tougher Than Ever Jada Pinkett Smith's Fish Mooney Will Return to 'Gotham' Streets with a New Look & Tougher Than Ever Mo'Nique Presents Email Evidence That Shows She Was in Contention for the Role of Cookie in 'Empire' Mo'Nique Presents Email Evidence That Shows She Was in Contention for the Role of Cookie in 'Empire' Films & TV Series Coming to (and Leaving) Netflix's Streaming Library In May Films & TV Series Coming to (and Leaving) Netflix's Streaming Library In May James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson Will Share a Stage Again in a Revival of 'The Gin Game' James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson Will Share a Stage Again in a Revival of 'The Gin Game' Watch: Michael Jackson’s Movie Career Summed Up in 7 Minutes Watch: Michael Jackson’s Movie Career Summed Up in 7 Minutes Watch First Trailer for 'Desperate Housewives - Africa' + Individual Character Profiles Watch First Trailer for 'Desperate Housewives - Africa' + Individual Character Profiles Watch Trailer for Jordan Davis Documentary, '3 1/2 Minutes.' Coming to HBO This Fall Watch Trailer for Jordan Davis Documentary, '3 1/2 Minutes.' Coming to HBO This Fall Quentin Tarantino's 'H8ful Eight' Gets a Teaser Trailer (Samuel L. Jackson, Belinda Owino) Quentin Tarantino's 'H8ful Eight' Gets a Teaser Trailer (Samuel L. Jackson, Belinda Owino) Here Are the Cities & Theaters in Which Patrik-Ian Polk's Award-Winning Drama 'Blackbird' Will Open Here Are the Cities & Theaters in Which Patrik-Ian Polk's Award-Winning Drama 'Blackbird' Will Open Trailer: Pilot Project 'First Gen' (The Trials and Tribulations of Being a First Gen Nigerian-American) Trailer: Pilot Project 'First Gen' (The Trials and Tribulations of Being a First Gen Nigerian-American) Apparently, Many of You Aren't Pleased With the "All-New" 'Single Ladies'... What's Going on? Apparently, Many of You Aren't Pleased With the "All-New" 'Single Ladies'... What's Going on? What to Expect in Season 2 of 'Empire' (Less Opulence; Spike Lee May Direct, Oprah May Guest-Star, More) What to Expect in Season 2 of 'Empire' (Less Opulence; Spike Lee May Direct, Oprah May Guest-Star, More) Why Was Janet Hubert (Aunt Viv) Really Replaced on 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'? Buzzfeed Investigates Why Was Janet Hubert (Aunt Viv) Really Replaced on 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'? Buzzfeed Investigates Whoopi Goldberg & Daughter Alex Martin Enter Reality TV Series Ring Whoopi Goldberg & Daughter Alex Martin Enter Reality TV Series Ring Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie... Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie...

Unconventional Dark-Romance 'Small Of Her Back' Anchored By Challenging, Compelling Performances

Shadow and Act By Vanessa Martinez | Shadow and Act September 28, 2012 at 4:25PM

Russell Sharman’s Small Of Her Back is a two-character dark romance about Piper (Nicole Beharie), a young woman diagnosed with Bi-Polar disorder who gets a knock on her door by John (newcomer Christopher Domig), a man who claims to be the brother of a Molly; the latter is a woman Piper has built an online relationship with for the past three months.
3
Small of her back still

Russell Sharman’s Small Of Her Back is a two-character dark romance about Piper (Nicole Beharie), a young woman diagnosed with Bi-Polar disorder who gets a knock on her door by John (newcomer Christopher Domig), a man who claims to be the brother of a Molly; the latter is a woman Piper has built an online relationship with for the past three months.

The micro-budget indie premiered last weekend at the Urbanworld Film Festival. Small Of Her Back – described as a “suicidal shut in” - has the feel of a stage play, especially the scenes – where most of the film takes place – between Piper and John in Piper’s small, clustered apartment. And it’s no surprise; writer/director Sharman adapted his 2008 stage play of the same name to the screen.

It’s not a film for everyone; but one that I definitely appreciated for its script - intelligent, clever wordplay and original, unpredictable twists - and compelling performances by Beharie and Domig. And perhaps it’s not a film for everyone because its references to “catching a meaning”, its in-depth mental illness/Psychiatry terminology and a book of poems called Constance by Jane Kenyon, as well as what may be seen as a wacky – rather unconventional, some will call theatrical – performance by Beharie may be lost on some.

sm of her back still

But that’s why I also enjoyed this film.  I do not recall a film with a black female lead – actually Halle Berry’s Frankie and Alice comes to mind - that is as complex, challenging, and devoid of racial references as this one. Taking in consideration that the film was shot over 14 days and the actors rehearsed for only two, the results are pretty amazing.

When we first meet Piper in her apt as she sticks pieces of notepaper all over her walls and in monologue attempting to come up with specific words, we can’t quite figure out her eccentric antics. John, a lonesome, melancholic character comes to Piper’s door and tries to convince her that he’s Molly’s brother. After hearing Piper fire a gun, he breaks in the door and eventually settles in her apartment.

Piper is moody and compulsive; she’s manic; she’s unpredictable; welcoming and flirtatious one minute and angry, defensive, homicidal and suicidal the next.  She lives in a fantasy world –it’s safe- in which her online “friend” Molly, whom she has never met/seen aside from the “four little flat pictures and characters on the screen”, really loves her.

The mystery lies in finding out the intentions of these two characters. Why is John so adamant in trying “to help” Piper? Is he really Molly’s brother? Piper isn’t naïve, and as the film progresses she outsmarts John as she solves the puzzle.  Domig, a newcomer with a few credits under his belt, pulls off a rich and layered performance as the observant, seemingly kind-natured John. The two unlikely characters have chemistry; and even though there’s no explicit romance, there’s plenty of tension.

I couldn’t help thinking of the taboos of mental illness, especially in the black community. It’s easy to label Piper and say, “She’s crazy”. Yet, it’s not because she’s a “crack-head”. Piper is incredibly astute and bright. It’s also difficult to overlook her beauty, but Beharie is able to pull it off convincingly. Another aspect which adds complexity and the element of taboo is her character's dubious sexuality. Is she a Lesbian? Bi? Does it matter?

For its very limited budget, the film’s cinematography by Noah Yuan-Vogel is quite stunning.

It’s not a perfect film; some scenes had an experimental feel to them. Yet, the film’s distinct peculiarities stay with you long after watching it, which is why I found Small Of Her Back intellectually stimulating and gripping.

For updates, follow up the film on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/SmallOfHerBack

small of her back poster

This article is related to: Nicole Beharie, Reviews


Shadow & ActNewsletter