VOD Review - Dayveon
Most films about gang activity depicts such activity in inner cities. It's rare that we see gang activity in the country or rural areas of the south or elsewhere. There are films like Welcome to Pine Hill (2013), which is set near Brooklyn, or Jason's Lyric (1994), set near Houston, but most films involving black people in the country or in the south are about racism or civil rights. This film isn't about any of that. There aren't any white people in this at all. It's much like the recent, Oscar-winning Moonlight (2016) in that regard. Two recent films that come close to what Abbasi's film is doing are Lance Hammer's Ballast (2008) and David Gordon Greene's George Washington (2000). Hammer's film is about a depressed, black family that's more about a man dealing with suicide. Greene's film is more about children dealing with their own romantic feelings and the effects of mortality in very direct ways.
As is the case, all this aggression and violence upon each other are seen by those involved as brotherhood or a way of showing love in contrast to softer displays of affection. Devin Blackmon stars as Dayveon, the protagonist who's jumped into the Bloods due to losses in his own family or the literal loss of his brother, which pushes him toward these other brothers. Abbasi cuts to shots of bees in a hive, which demonstrates a need for a person to be a part of a collective or a group. The obvious, extreme poverty then pushes the hive to commit criminal acts, desperate for work and money.
At one point, Dayveon is so a part of the hive and this drive to flex his muscle that he can't handle or doesn't know what to do with expressions of love and affection that don't align with the gang beating him up. When an older guy who's dating his mom, Brian, played by Dontrell Bright, attempts to show him that love and affection, not through hitting but through hugging, Dayveon can't handle. He seems numb and unemotional or disconnected.
The difference is that Abbasi's film lets us more inside the head of the son than in Gomis' film. In Gomis' film, the son was truly a blank slate or empty vessel with a barrier up that even the filmmaker would not or could not penetrate or truly overcome. Here, Abbasi's character does have a barrier up from his mother's boyfriend, but Abbasi takes time out to bring that barrier down and let us in the son's world.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 15 mins.
Available on Netflix.