‘Life And Nothing More’: Stunning Performances Highlight A Moving Tale Of Black America [San Sebastian Review]

The Playlist | 10/11/2017 | Jessica Kiang
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“I’m done. I’m done with you.” These are the first words we hear harried single mom Regina say to her surly 14-year-old son Andrew, in Antonio Méndez Esparza‘s exceptional “Life and Nothing More.” But as so often in this rich, quiet film, that despite being shot in docu-realist style is invested with a Bressonian respect for silence, stillness and the movement of bodies in unobtrusively eloquent choreography within the frame, words are a lie. As her very next scene demonstrates, while she pleads with passionate sincerity for the judge to allow the boy’s sentence to be served at home with her, Regina will never be “done” with Andrew. No matter how much he lets her down, no matter how far short she herself may fall from the ideals of motherhood that circumstances put so far beyond her reach, she will never be done. If part of the great power of cinema is in being a visual medium that can somehow give form to the intangible, Esparza’s sophomore film is exemplary: it makes manifest such enormous, politicized intangibles as race, class and gender relations through the authentic portrayal of real lives, real people, vividly played. This is nothing more than life; what more could there be?

Spanning with unnerving newness a time frame around the 2016 election, the film’s focus oscillates between mother and son. Andrew, played by newcomer Andrew Beechington, lives at home in Florida with his chirpily adorable three-year-old sister and his mother. He is at that pivotal moment between childhood and adulthood, not just in terms of his own identity, but also in the eyes of the legal system. Pretty soon the strikes that have been accruing against him may lead to him being charged as an adult, and likely joining the father with whom he has little contact,...
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