A.V. Rockwell has been directing short films for a decade. Welcome to her feature film debut. This unbelievably well-told story will blow your mind. It’ll keep you glued to your seat and, throughout the entire narrative, keep you wondering what’s going to end up happening to these individuals.
Poor Inez (Teyana Taylor) is a young mother just trying what she can to keep her and her baby boy Terry (played by three actors at various ages, six, thirteen and seventeen Aaron Kingsley Adetola, Aven Courtney, Josiah Cross, respectively) safe from the streets and safe from the system who took him away from her.
It’s 1994, and Inez has just been released from Rikers Island. It couldn’t have been easy to begin with, let alone knowing your sweet little boy has been placed into the foster care system. When she sees him again, she makes a promise to little Terry, with his cute little ball cap on, that she’s going to make things better now that she’s back. His mom, who loves him very much, is going to make sure nothing happens to him from now on like it did in the foster homes he had been stuck in. She doesn’t have a job yet and goes from friend to friend, hoping to find a helping hand until she can land on her feet. Terry then questions where his daddy is. She lets him know that the two of them are in this together. It’s just the two of them right now. Something that will stick with you for the rest of the film is Inez telling her little boy that “there is more to life that fucked up beginnings.”
One way Rockwell helps tell her story and make you feel what Inez is going through is fly over the city, showing you the difference between Harlem, Brooklyn and New York City. Often these are accompanied by stories of what’s in the news. One clip you hear is then-mayor Rudy Giuliani talking about how he’s going to clean up the city by ending jay-walking. Another is telling us all about “Stop and Frisk,” a policy that actually allows police, good and bad, to stop any individual and pat them down if they look like they may have or are about to commit a crime. Including this is crucial in showing you what Inez and everyone in Harlem was going through at the time. It’s a difficult time for Inez and women like her to maneuver around a system that’s working against her, but she’s strong-willed and tough and what skills she has, she uses to get her and Terry a place where they even make some friends.
Terry is extremely intelligent so no matter what happens in life now, Inez feels as if she won. Her son is going to be someone. Saying that, please do me a favor and do not read any articles or any other reviews about this. There is one hell of a twist that you won’t see coming. One where you’ll have to pick up your jaw from the theater floor. The performances are fantastic! The writing is outstanding, and the cinematography helps you understand the characters more profoundly than you could have.
A THOUSAND AND ONE
Written and Directed by: A.V. Rockwell
Starring: Teyana Taylor, William Catlett, Aaron Kingsley Adetola, Aven Courtney, Josiah Cross
Rated: R (Language)
Runtime: 1h 57m
Genre: Drama, Crime
Produced by: Eddie Vaisman, Julia Lebedev, Lena Waithe, Rishi Rajani, Brad Weston
Distributor: Focus Features