TEYANA TAYLOR and Aaron Kingsley Adetola in “A Thousand and One,” which opens in theatres on March 31. (Photo courtesy Focus Features/Sundance Institute)
A Harlem mother is forced to take matters into her own hands when she is fresh out of jail and longing to reunite with her 6-year-old son, Terry. The ruggedness of society reintegration in America’s most populous city provides difficulties for Inez (Teyana Taylor) and her young tot.
“A Thousand and One” has a quiet, yet talented cast including William Catlett, Terri Abney, and three newcomers who all portrayed Terry at different ages, Aaron Kingsley Adetola, Aven Courtney and Josiah Cross.
The previews do not do this movie any justice. We get “Losing Isaiah” vibes from the trailer when “A Thousand and One” is so much deeper than that. It has the warmness of “Crooklyn,” the ups and downs of “He Got Game,” and the custodial complexity of “Precious” (minus the sexual exploitation of minors).
Teyana Taylor’s acting career truly begins with this film, defining the intricacy of this role and confirming her ability to morph seamlessly. She is every woman who ever dared to share her body with another human being for nine months, who stepped up to care of someone else’s child, and who stumbled in those efforts.
“A Thousand and One” was made for Teyana Taylor. The 33-year-old has seen success in love, marriage, kids and many different professions. This cinematic delight was just the icing on the cake. A Harlem native herself, Teyana Taylor returned home and completely bodied this gig as leading lady.
One thing Teyana Taylor’s character consistently lacked was peace. In my opinion, peace is a form of happiness and self-care. Black women, as this nation’s caregiver, deserve peace—warranted and uninterrupted.
Inez and Terry’s relationship is dynamic. The unconventional pairing as mother and son is a soft reminder that parenting is not so gentle and young motherhood often looks a lot like friendship.
Please be prepared for the waterworks, the Vivian Green Emotional Roller Coaster, and character reliability. It tugs every heartstring. I cried for the last 25 minutes.
This is a film for those who are battered, bruised, scorned and struggling. But it is also for those who have triumphed, are vindicated, and surviving. “A Thousand and One” is more than a Sundance Film Festival favorite, but a trigger warning for every mother and son, every New Yorker forced to couch surf due to gentrification, and every couple fighting to love.
My only complaint is that I would have been willing to sit there another two hours just to get to answers to so many concluding questions.
While the box office is stuffed with action-packed, superhero ballots, “A Thousand and One” shakes everything up with NYC’s grit and grace. The film hits theaters on Friday, March 31.