Tuesday 16 February 2021

Staggered release: "White Colour Black"

It's taken five years for Joseph Adesunloye's White Colour Black to stagger off the festival circuit and onto the official UK release schedule, which seems telling. It's not that this is a bad movie - if anything, it gets stronger as it goes along - but it makes several early stumbles that presumably put some viewers and (crucially) buyers off, and thereafter struggles to find anything much in the way of rhythm, a near-fatal flaw for what's clearly intended as a sensitive character study. For some while, it appears broadly as aimless and lost as its protagonist, voracious London photographer Leke (Dudley O'Shaughnessy, best known as That Guy from Rihanna's "We Found Love" video), whose rote hedonism - women, drugs, partying, more women - only intensifies upon hearing news that his father is dying back in Senegal. On the plus side, it's cheeringly outward-looking, feeling more like the kind of project the French film industry, with its close African links, has become adept at realising. Adesunloye's London scenes are surfacey, but they're properly multicultural, at least; once we get out to Senegal, where Leke begins to reconcile himself with his past, we're swept some way off the tourist trail. These sequences have a texture and scope beyond the reach of the UK scenes, with their cash-strapped British indie look and feel; one problem is you can all too clearly see the budget being gobbled up by plane tickets. Whether White Colour Black gets close to the dramatic heft Adesunloye is shooting for is another matter. British screen veteran Wale Ojo steadies matters as Leke's uncle, but O'Shaughnessy's hesitant, school-play line delivery proves another limitation: long stretches of this character arc require rather more than the former boxer and sometime model is capable of giving at this point in his acting career. No question that the lad photographs well, especially during the chopped-in bedroom scenes, where Adesunloye demonstrates more of a producer's instinct, aiming to hook an audience before the comparatively dry and unsexy spiritual renewal of the second half. The fact it's still taken White Colour Black a half-decade to land a distributor, even with all this copious thrusting, might be taken as less telling than damning.

White Colour Black will be available to stream from Friday via Prime Video, Curzon Home Cinema and the Peccadillo Player.

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