Growing up is hard to do, but for a black American kid in Germany whose father has not modeled communication—except maybe rap style—it’s a puzzlement. Morris’ father Curtis (Robinson) is coach of the local soccer team in Heldelberg, Germany. They’ve just arrived, and Morris (Christmas) is struggling with German lessons and feeling the beginnings of adolescent surliness. He’s basically happy living with his father, and has only distant stirrings of a wish for friends his own age. But when he has the opportunity, he goes for adventure and peer acceptance, and his father has to adapt.
Morris’ German tutor, Inka (Juri), does her best to draw him out playfully, and luckily for him, he bonds with her, although he would deny it. He’s not much of one to want help.
The other woman in his life (his mother is dead) is Katrin (Keller) a blonde beauty he meets at school and is quickly smitten by her. She is flirtatious, but mostly out of curiosity. She and the others—including a teacher—think he is the stereotypic black. What? He doesn’t play basketball? He doesn’t dance? Is this marijuana cigarette stub his? Then he lets her know he is a “gangsta rapper” (his current aspiration), and he has made it in her eyes; she is an avid music fan, and does everything she can to induce him to perform.
Katrin is the most interesting character in the film. She goes out of her way, at the mystification of her friends and the horror of her mother, to engage Morris. She plays cat and mouse games with him, invites him to parties, and even gets him onstage at one of her boyfriend’s concerts, where he is a hit. At first, it seems like she is regarding him as a toy, a novelty, and that she actually has little regard for him. However, in one of the last scenes, she proves that she has more genuineness than was apparent, and that she has simply been like someone her age when commitments are not necessarily permanent.
Writer/director Chad Hartigan has created a plausible story about the persistence of racial stereotypes across different countries and a picture of adolescence in that context. I applaud his portrayal of a teenager who is thoughtful and has good judgment most of the time, but is susceptible to temptation out of loneliness and curiosity. Morris makes mistakes and needs rescuing, but that’s what growing up is all about.
A true-to-life story with well-cast, talented actors.
Grade: B By Donna R. Copeland