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Movie Review: A Thousand and One

I’m a huge supporter of films that tell small stories, but upon seeing this one, I have a hard time getting behind it. I’ll explain later, with spoilers.

Set in Rudy Guliani’s 90s era New York City, this film follows Inez as she is released from prison. She is unable to get custody of her child so she kidnaps him and disappears into the populations of NYC. She finds a job, an apartment, and works hard for years through bad relationships and bad landlords to get her son an education and a better life.

That is until he tries to apply for a job and finds out the the social security number and birth certificate his mother has for him are fake. Turns out, Inez was never his mother. She kidnapped him twice. Once when he was a toddler and then again when she was released from prison.

When the film ends, there are no repercussions for duping a child into believing that she is his mother. She leaves, having been forgiving by the son who really isn’t her son, and disappears again into the crowded NYC area. Perhaps this film wants to show how the system within the city during that era failed its black citizens. It touches on racism several times, but it falls short because the main characters are so unlikable.

Inez is terrible. She is rude to her son, her friends, and her boyfriend. The boyfriend is equally awful and openly cheats on her. Terry, the son, has little personality and has some deeply rooted trust issues, not surprising given everything he has been through. Mental health issues on full display for all three main characters, and none of them ever get any help.

Want to get behind this one because it says a lot about systemic racism and mental illness, but falls short when the resolution leaves everything unresolved. It’s long winded, this one, and the payoff at the end is that Inez walks away without taking any responsibility for her actions. It’s like watching Sam Rockwell in Three Billboards essentially get away with assaulting someone and tossing them out a window. Left a real sour taste in my mouth, and not for the reasons the filmmakers intended.

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