Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Weekend B.O. Oct.17-19 - How Did 'Dear White People' Do and What Might it Mean? Weekend B.O. Oct.17-19 - How Did 'Dear White People' Do and What Might it Mean? Trailer Debut: 'Black Dynamite' Season 2 Arrives Trailer Debut: 'Black Dynamite' Season 2 Arrives Review: 'Mike Tyson Mysteries' Proves That Iron Mike Isn't Afraid to Dress Himself Down Review: 'Mike Tyson Mysteries' Proves That Iron Mike Isn't Afraid to Dress Himself Down Donald Glover Adds to Growing Film Slate - Joins Cast of Ridley Scott's Sci-Fi Thriller 'The Martian' Donald Glover Adds to Growing Film Slate - Joins Cast of Ridley Scott's Sci-Fi Thriller 'The Martian' It All Started at a BSU Meeting: Justin Simien on 'Dear White People', Raven-Symoné, and the Black Art House (Interview) It All Started at a BSU Meeting: Justin Simien on 'Dear White People', Raven-Symoné, and the Black Art House (Interview) Warner Bros Reveals Details on Its 10 DC Comics Film Adaptations. Will Include a Cyborg Movie Starring Ray Fisher Warner Bros Reveals Details on Its 10 DC Comics Film Adaptations. Will Include a Cyborg Movie Starring Ray Fisher T.I. Teases His 'Ant-Man' Role - "I Play a Superhero's Homeboy" T.I. Teases His 'Ant-Man' Role - "I Play a Superhero's Homeboy" Lifetime Releases First FULL Trailer for 'Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B' (Premieres Saturday, 11/15) Lifetime Releases First FULL Trailer for 'Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B' (Premieres Saturday, 11/15) Steve McQueen Goes With Newcomer Devon Terrell to Play the Lead in His HBO Project Steve McQueen Goes With Newcomer Devon Terrell to Play the Lead in His HBO Project Sean Penn Puts Post-Earthquake Haiti In Focus In New Feature Doc 'Haiti Untold' - Now Streaming on Netflix Sean Penn Puts Post-Earthquake Haiti In Focus In New Feature Doc 'Haiti Untold' - Now Streaming on Netflix In Wake of 'Gotham' Controversy Comes 'Painted Down' - New Doc Chronicling Struggles & Hard Fought Victories of Black Stunt People In Wake of 'Gotham' Controversy Comes 'Painted Down' - New Doc Chronicling Struggles & Hard Fought Victories of Black Stunt People TV One Airs First-Ever Original, Scripted Work of Horror - Trilogy Titled 'The Fright Night Files' TV One Airs First-Ever Original, Scripted Work of Horror - Trilogy Titled 'The Fright Night Files' 'Drumline: A New Beat' (Sequel to the 2002 Film) Gets a Premiere Date + New Trailer (Watch It) 'Drumline: A New Beat' (Sequel to the 2002 Film) Gets a Premiere Date + New Trailer (Watch It) Woody Allen Says He Won’t Hire a Black Actor Unless the Role Calls for One... Whatever That Means Woody Allen Says He Won’t Hire a Black Actor Unless the Role Calls for One... Whatever That Means Co-Screenwriter of 'Noah' Explains Why There Are No Black People Or POC In The Film Co-Screenwriter of 'Noah' Explains Why There Are No Black People Or POC In The Film Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Lifetime Launches New Series Set In Elite World Of Hip-Hop Majorette Competitions (Watch Preview) Lifetime Launches New Series Set In Elite World Of Hip-Hop Majorette Competitions (Watch Preview) ABC Is Making Changes To The Next-Day Online Availability Of Its Series ABC Is Making Changes To The Next-Day Online Availability Of Its Series 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