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Southside With You (Blu-ray Review)

southside with you coverThe idea behind Southside With You was to make a date movie featuring a notable couple. Removing future context beyond the idea of knowing where things will eventually end, this story of the first date between Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson is about seeing two people coming together based on curiosity and attraction to one another. Using a “one long day” format, the film is all about capturing performances on camera and making the chemistry play cinematically. It works well enough and the film can now be seen on Blu-ray by anyone looking for a modern romance.

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Film:

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Set in 1989 Chicago, this is the story of a Barack Obama (Parker Sawyers), a young associate, trying to win the heart of Michelle Robinson (Tika Sumpter), a young lawyer. The film chronicles their first date, which had the couple visiting an Afro-Centric art exhibit, attending a community meeting, seeing Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing and having their first kiss outside an ice cream parlor. These are more or less all the actual things that took place (the community center was later) and the film delights in keeping the focus on this date and these two characters.

Writer/director Richard Tanne is wise to keep away from heavier themes. The film plays pretty loose, where even the big community meeting scene plays more off a man with idealistic goals, than portraying a focus that speaks to any particular side. If anything, Tanne’s film has a lot more in common with Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy, as opposed to something more politically minded. This is why the film works for what it is.

We follow two characters during a long day and see how their chemistry makes them an intriguing pair. The film is notable for making sure we are aware that Barack is trying to win Michelle’s heart, but she was not prepared for things to make a romantic turn. It is only by seeing where the day takes these two that the situation comes to evolve into more of an actual romantic date. The two bicker often, disagree about things, but also find common ground and eventual come closer together.

With all of this, the performances are strong enough and don’t rely on direct impersonation. While President Obama has a clear way of speaking, Sawyers really tries to do his own thing that benefits this interpretation and plays up the fact that we are merely watching a film. Sumpter is more direct in channeling the future Michelle Obama, but not without keeping her own actor qualities at play.

At 84 minutes, Southside With You does well to not overstay its welcome, as it has little concern with anything outside of these two characters on this particular day. The result is a solid romantic comedy-drama. Highlights are the interplay between these two characters and seeing how the two attempt to hold onto their wits, while expressing various forms of admiration. Given how history plays out, the film may not have too many surprises, but it is enjoyable.

 

Video:

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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Clarity/Detail: Shot digitally with what appears to be some sort of filter to give a more lived in feel to reflect 1989 better, Southside With You looks quite good on Blu-ray. It’s not the most visually complex film, but it is quite clear throughout. Various settings and clothing register well and the amount detail at play rarely seems to be upset by any issue.

Depth: Tracking these characters allows for a fine level of dimensionality to be seen.

Black Levels: Black levels are quite sharp, although some of the nighttime scenes lead to some noticeable crushing.

Color Reproduction: Colors pop. It comes in the form of clothing present and certain scenes, such as the art exhibit. The film has a very natural feel, but color does manage to shine when present.

Flesh Tones: Strong facial texturing appears throughout, as the number of close-ups and two-shots allow for this element to strongly register.

Noise/Artifacts: Nothing too upsetting.

 

Audio:

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Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio

Subtitles: English SDH, English, Spanish

Dynamics: The lossless track does not exactly have a whole bunch of big audio cues to rely on, but it is a fine track that does justice to the film. The various soundtrack moments and dialogue register nicely with no issues to be heard or not heard well enough.

Low Frequency Extension: The LFE channel is not really present, but the film has little to offer, aside from sound music moments and hearing Obama start his old junky car.

Surround Sound Presentation: Ambient noise makes up the use of the rear channels, as this is a front/center-heavy track for sure.

Dialogue Reproduction: Lots of talking and it all sounds clear.

 

Extras:

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It would have been nice to get more of a look behind the scenes, but there is a commentary track that delivers some stories about production and other expected details.

Features Include:

  • Commentary with Director/Writer Richard Tanne
  • Original Artwork and Animations (HD)
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:32)
  • Previews
  • Digital HD Copy of the Film

 

Summary:

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Southside With You does its best to be a sweet film and it succeeds. There is not much issue to be found in what it tries to do, even if the film is rather innocuous as a whole. The performances and banter is what counts. Similarly, the Blu-ray is solid all-around. Video and audio are presented cleanly as they should be and while lite on extras, it is enough for a small film such as this. A decent date movie can be had with this one.

Order Your Copy Here:

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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