Films & Schedules

  • Medicine for Melancholy

  • Barry Jenkins

88 minutes

Production Company:
Strike Anywhere
Justin Barber
Barry Jenkins
James Laxton
Nat Sanders
Niko Zasimczuk
Principal Cast: Wyatt Cenac, Tracey Heggins

Canadian Distributor:
Seville Pictures
US Distributor:
IFC Films

Preceded by:

Jesus and the Giant

Akin Omotoso
South Africa, 2008

Tuesday September 0908:45PM AMC 6 Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist
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The urban romance genre usually follows a predictable template. Using the barest of budgets and two talented actors, first-time feature filmmaker Barry Jenkins lifts only the faintest outline from that framework and fills it with visual innovation, memorable characters and relevant, contemporary ideas.

Micah (Wyatt Cenac) and Jo (Tracey Heggins) wake up in the harsh light of a morning after a one-night stand. Micah works hard to convince Jo to join him for breakfast but, while at first it is difficult to tell whether Jo is quiet, haughty or hungover, she soon makes it abundantly clear that she doesn't want to see Micah again. He tracks her down nonetheless and, despite her initial protestations, she gives in to his invitation for coffee.

The city of San Francisco cradles them, its very character sparking some of their charged exchanges about how love, race and identity can mold desires. Micah reacts against the gentrification that is irrevocably changing his city, and cannot understand Jo's apparent lack of interest in the subject. For him, reaching out to Jo is not just about meeting a gorgeous woman, but also about connecting within San Francisco's dwindling African-American population.

The best urban romances lavish as much attention on their locations as on their lovers. Here, Jenkins and cinematographer James Laxton have crafted a sophisticated and unique visual statement, desaturating the colour to almost painterly effect.

Medicine for Melancholy is a rare hybrid of romance and intellect, full of great sex, rich conversation and cool music. More importantly, however, it marks the emergence of a distinctive director with important things to say.

The feature is preceded by Akin Omotoso's gorgeous new short film. A fable straight out of contemporary Johannesburg, the film follows an avenging woman as she seeks out the brute who battered her friend. Jesus and the Giant draws upon both the Bible and the still-photography style of Chris Marker's La Jetée to haunting, pointed effect.

Jane Schoettle

Barry Jenkins was born in Miami and studied at Florida State University. He worked as a director's assistant and development associate for Harpo Films in Los Angeles, and now lives in San Francisco. His short films include My Josephine (03) and Little Brown Boy (03). Medicine for Melancholy (08) is his debut feature.

Cadillac People's Choice Award