by Guest Contributor G.D., originally published at PostBourgie
For all its considerable charm and sharpness, there’s a patina of sadness that hangs over Medicine for Melancholy, a new film written and directed by Barry Jenkins that just entered limited theatrical release. The story focuses tightly on a man and a woman (Wyatt Cenac and Tracey Heggins) in the wake of their one-night stand at a party. The initial awkwardness gives way to a tenuous connection, as the two quasi-bohos realize that they share many of the same cultural affinities (which Cenac’s character, Micah, refers to by the shorthand, “indie”). The stuff they like, Micah notes at one point, is decidedly about not being black.
This could all be cute and earnest in the way a lot of mumblecore is — quirky boy meets quirky girl in hip, scenester-ish town — but Melancholy has much bigger questions to ask.
Micah is a preternaturally chill native San Franciscan who feels increasingly alienated as the city rapidly gentrifies. “Imagine the Lower Haight filled with nothing but black folk and white artists,” he tells Jo, his would-be lover, about his long-gone San Fran. (It’s become the least black of America’s major cities.) Jo, wary at first but charming over time, is a transplant who doesn’t see the world in Micah’s specifically racialized terms, and it’s implied by the relative sizes of their living spaces that she occupies a higher position in the economic food chain. Both though, are black people partaking in a social milieu where Negroes are rarities. None of this tension is anywhere near as didactic as it may sound; these issues come up intermittently in the course of the pair walking and biking around, making each other laugh and generally feeling each other out. Read the Post Race, Class and One-Night Stands