The film follows Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson on their first date in 1989 – but can it charm the audiences?
Written and directed by Richard Tanne, Southside With You is a straightforward film about a couple who go on to become the most famous couple in the world and changing history.
Taking place across one day, the film as much as it is about the dynamic that they have as a couple, it is also about understanding them as individuals and how their different attitudes towards life actually help them become better people.
Some might find Tanne’s film too straight forward and looks at their first date through rose-tinted glasses, but this is balanced by the performances of Tika Sumpter and Parker Sawyers, whose portrayals of the future President and First Lady are wonderfully grounded and convincing.
Parker Sawyers’ performance as Barack Obama, reveals a charismatic and persistent personality who at the same time has a lot of resentment towards his father which Michelle convinces hime to let go of. Sawyers never overplays the role and is most convincing in the scene in which he is talking about using every obstacle as building step to the next stage – you get a real sense of his passion and belief.
Meanwhile, Tika Sumpter as Michelle is a passionate and straight talking woman, whose reluctance to class her date with Obama as a proper date suggests an independent streak. The moment when she discusses how she feels that she has to work much harder than him because she is both a woman and black is heartfelt and a real turning point. It is a performance that is honest and believable, gaining and keeping the respect of the audience throughout.
But the main problem with the film is that because it is so focused on them as a couple, that it is difficult for the film to go anywhere. There are moments of conflict such as when Barack confronts Michelle about her job choice or when Michelle confronts him about his attitude to his father, but these are few and far between and the film loses a sense of purpose.
It is sharp and focused film that brings up important issues such as racism and gender equality and although it doesn’t go into much depth about them, it adds an additional layer into the mindset of two characters who both seem to have the same aim of wanting to do more good in the world.
An interesting film in terms of humanising two of the most famous people in the world at the moment, but perhaps just lacking slightly in purpose that some audiences might be frustrated with.
Southside With You is be released in UK cinemas today (30th September).