“A Thousand and One”


Metacritic (6/10), Letterboxd (3/5), Imdb.com (6/10), TMDB.com (3/5)

It’s been said that a mother’s love for her child runs so deep that she’ll do virtually anything to protect her young. But is it possible to carry things too far? That’s a question raised in writer-director A.V. Rockwell’s debut feature about a mother with a criminal record (Teyana Taylor) who kidnaps her young son (Aaron Kingsley Adetola) out of foster care upon her release from prison. She questions the adequacy of the care he is receiving as a ward of the state, and so she snatches him from his foster caretaker and hides him away as she seeks to get her life together. Over the next 11 years (1994-2005), she largely succeeds at this, too, even in the midst of many challenges, including an often-uneven relationship with her former partner in crime (literally) (Will Catlett) and a rapidly changing New York, especially in her home neighborhood of Harlem. Despite a somewhat slow and unfocused start, the story deepens as this unlikely new family seeks to get on its feet. However, the somewhat-disjointed opening act sets the tone for the overall narrative, which gets away from its basic premise and starts meandering in engaging but largely unrelated territory, an issue that hampers the focus of this story until near the end. These shortcomings are defrayed to a degree by its fine performances, most notably Taylor and the gifted actors playing her son at ages 13 and 17 (Aven Courtney and Josiah Cross, respectively), but these portrayals aren’t quite enough to overcome the inherent drawbacks in the direction of the script. With that said, though, the filmmaker nevertheless shows promise in telling moving tales, so here’s hoping this start lead to better efforts in her future endeavors.