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VOD Review: The Outside Story

May 18, 2021

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The Outside Story, a gentle New York City dramedy written and directed by Casimir Nozkowski, is one of those films that takes a somewhat simple premise – a man getting locked out of his apartment – and blossoms it out into something delightful and often wonderful.

The main character is Charles Young (Brian Tyree Henry), a reclusive video editor who works for TCM cutting together tribute videos for older celebrities so they are ready to air as soon as they die. He is despondent after just going through a breakup, calling it quits with his girlfriend Isha (Sonequa Martin-Green) after finding out that she cheated on him.

But, when he steps out of the building to give a tip to his food delivery guy (Jordan Carlos), Charles forgets to grab his keys, and ends up locked out of his Brooklyn apartment with no shoes on. As he waits for assistance, and gets angry texts from his boss who needs him to finish editing the video on his laptop that is locked in his apartment, he spends the day wandering around Brooklyn in his socks.

This allows him to interact with a cast of characters that he wouldn’t have gotten to know otherwise, with these interactions providing the heart of the film. The supporting players include Officer Slater (Sunita Mani), a young parking enforcement officer who is after him to move his girlfriend’s car, the pregnant Paige (Hannah Bos) who is having a stoop sale, and elderly widow Sara (Lynda Gravatt) who lives in the building over.

Inside his building, Charles gets to know his neighbours in a way that he never did before. There’s Elena (Olivia Edward), the girl who lives in the apartment below him and offers a charger for his dying phone, and Andre (Michael Cyril Creighton), the cranky neighbour who lives above him and is increasingly annoyed at having an attempted ménage à trois interrupted by needing to buzz Charles in and out of the building. Nozkowski’s script gives welcome depth to these interactions, which range from comedic to dramatic, and often perfectly nail the balance between the two.

There is a sweetness to the film, especially in the friendships that Charles forges with these various people, with Nozkowski succeeding in giving us engaging little glimpses into their worlds. The ensemble cast is uniformly good, with even the smallest players making the most of their roles. The film is built around a magnetic performance by Brian Tyree Henry, who brings subtle nuance to his portrayal of Charles. Henry is an actor with a strong track record of leaving his mark in supporting roles in films like If Beale Street Could Talk and the Child’s Play remake, and he shines in an overdue leading role.

Sometimes it feels good to simply enjoy a film, and that is exactly the case with The Outside Story. Yes, it’s built around a fairly simple premise, but there are so many wonderful elements to it that the film is a pleasure to watch unfold. Nozkowski also mixes in flashbacks to when Charles and Isha were together, showing both the moment when their relationship began and where it all fell apart. These scenes help flesh out the story, and provide great context to the emotional journey that he is on. The film offers plenty of little life lessons as well that thankfully don’t feel forced.

There are a lot of movies that were shot before the pandemic that hit differently now after a year of lockdowns and quarantine, and The Outside Story is one of them, with its bittersweet message about getting out of your own space and exploring the world around you taking on added poignancy now. It’s a good New York story as well, showcasing the vibrancy of this Brooklyn neighbourhood. The result is a very heartwarming film that made me feel good, and sometimes that’s all we need.

The Outside Story is now available to watch on a variety of Digital and VOD platforms. It’s being distributed in Canada by Vortex Media.

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