Directed by Shaka King
Starring Amari Cheatom, Trae Harris, Isiah Whitlock Jr.
Playing at Film Forum
“Newlyweeds” is a rare movie about stoners that treats pot addiction seriously, carving out a space of its own in a naturalistic middle ground between the familiar standards of surreal comedy and moralistic drama.
Writer-director Shaka King doesn’t pass judgments on his characters or the drug that keeps getting in the way of their happiness and productivity. There are some humorous hallucinations, including one in which main character Lyle (Amari Cheatom) imagines himself in a blaxploitation cop flick. But this is fundamentally a sincere character study.
The Brooklyn-set “Newlyweeds” follows repo man Lyle’s relationship with girlfriend Nina (Trae Harris), who works at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum.
These are young, dynamic people who are deeply in love, but equally committed to smoking marijuana obsessively and the self- destructive side effects.
At first, they can balance their triplicate lives — work, home, pot — but a downward spiral sets in. King frames the characters as classic urban dreamers swimming upstream, fantasizing about trips to the Galapagos while grappling with the day-to-day burdens familiar to anyone struggling to get by in modern-day New York City ... and a whole lot of weed.
Long shots of Lyle and Nina on an empty Brooklyn beach at sunrise contrast with the gritty scenes in which the former is abused while doing his job.
The weed fantasies comment on Lyle’s fractured state of mind, his deep insecurities. The actors show us every bit of the desperation, exacerbated by the perpetual zombie state of a constant drug high.
Authenticity rules the day. You’ll recognize these people and the Brooklyn they inhabit, even if you’ve never picked up a joint.