Tuesday, November 23, 2021

She Paradise - Movie Review

The Movie: She Paradise

The Director: Maya Cozier

The Cast: Onessa Nestor, Kimberly Crichton, Chelsey Rampersad, Michael Cherrie, Denisia Latchman, Kern Mollineau

The Story: A teenage girl stumbles upon a free-spirited dance crew, leading to alluring but unsettling encounters with nightlife and money.

The Review:
I love finding movies that seem to come out of nowhere with a new take on a well worn topic or just a fresh look at the entire filmmaking process. Director Maya Cozier takes the classic coming of age story, sprinkles in her own life experience, and energizes it with a dose of unabashedly Caribbean energy that you can't take you eyes off of. The film is set within the nightlife and music scene of Trinidad and Tobago which is the southern most Caribbean island just off the coast of Venezuela.

The movie features a breakout performance from Onessa Nestor who plays the very appropriately named Sparkle, a young girl who sees dancing as a way out of her current life which seems to be going nowhere. Nestor brings a screen presence and an energy that is just captivating and it's clear that the camera absolutely loves when she is in front of it. The material she is given to work with is no walk in the park as her character faces some pretty intense situations and I was very impressed with her performance, especially considering this is her first time acting in any way.

Clocking in at a very lean one hour and 11 minutes, Cozier wastes no time telling her story and yet she still manages to cover so much ground and still manages to tell a very well thought out story. All things considered, you would never suspect that this is the director's first feature film after creating three shorts including a condensed version of She Paradise which was made to gain exposure and financing for the feature. The attention to detail across the board is really what stands out to me with this movie and I mean that in every way from set design and music to the cinematography and editing, every bit of it is very well thought out.

I was also really impressed with how immersive of an experience this movie is when it comes to the music, the dancing, the culture, the fashions. It just all felt so authentic which makes sense coming from a local cast and crew rather than a filmmaking team coming in from the states or elsewhere and not having such an intimate relationship with basically everything. Cozier immerses the audience into the story in a very natural way and leaves a lot of space for the characters to just exist in their own world.

The Verdict:
She Paradise is a powerful story filled with authentic Caribbean vibes and highlighted by a sparkling debut performance from Onessa Nestor.  This is a very impressive and strong first feature film from director Maya Cozier.

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