Rashaas Ernesto Green’s beautiful and lyrical coming-of-age story takes place on the vibrant streets of Harlem, where 17-year-old Ayanna encounters her first summer romance. Blooming with passion and energy, Premature is a heartfelt rendition of what it means to be young and in-love – and beyond that, a broader cognitive engagement in the challenges of family, race and friendship.
The contemporary Harlem setting, enshrouded by an almost oppressive sense of community, prevents Greens story from becoming tired and overused. Premature manages to remain fresh and relevant despite its traditional coming-of-age plot points, primarily due the caliber of acting from the lead protagonist, played by Zora Howard.
Ayanna is a complicated and sensitive character with a bit of sting; many of the problems she faces stem from her evident trust issues, and beneath the surface level of drama, Premature is essentially a story about a young girl learning to let her guard down. As we witness Ayanna navigate her way into adult life, we see the walls she has built around herself tumble down (for better or for worse). What oftentimes comes across as the simple ‘moody teen’ stereotype is in fact a complexity within Ayanna’s character, most likely rooted in childhood from the scraps of neglectful parenting Green occasionally lets us see.
Premature is a slow-burner that takes its time to emotionally invest us in the characters. We open to Ayanna and her friends laughing their way through slang-riddled gossip, picking up cute guys at the park. Green allows us some comic relief through these lively scenes of the Harlem landscape – which, in turn, serves to amplify the intimacy of later, more sentimental scenes. Green is brave with the camera, letting it linger on the private moments of Ayanna’s life. Perhaps this is why Premature achieves such a strong connection between protagonist and audience; Ayanna may not be perfect, but we still sympathize with her because of what we’ve seen.
Premature is a beautifully shot piece of indie cinema, brushed with a stroke of quiet realism that doesn’t try to force feed us any contemporary melodrama. The film is taught with everyday tensions, such as Ayanna’s mother-daughter relationship and Isiah’s (Joshua Bloom) struggle to achieve his artistic dreams. Having already done its festival rounds, Premature is set to release on the 21st February, 2020. For those who enjoyed similar films such as Barry Jenkins’s If Beale Street Could Talk (2018) or Moonlight (2016), I would definitely recommend you add this gem to your watch-list.
Drama, Romance | USA, 2019 | 15 | 6th January 2020 (UK) | Digital HD | Signature Entertainment | Dir.Rashaad Ernesto Green | Zora Howard, Joshua Boone, Michelle Wilson, Alexis Marie Wint