‘The Outside Story’ Review: Brooklyn as No One Has Ever Known It

The comedy “The Outside Story” takes a listless look at the life of Charles (Brian Tyree Henry), who is moping over his breakup with his unfaithful girlfriend, Isha (Sonequa Martin-Green). When Charles chases down a delivery person to offer a belated tip, he gets locked out of his Brooklyn apartment for a day and must set his self-pity aside.

This predicament forces him into contact with the neighbors he never bothered getting to know. Unable to re-enter his comfort zone, he asks to use the bathroom of the polyamorous partners upstairs. He charges his phone with the help of the adolescent piano prodigy who lives in his building. Charles is depressed, but affably so. He’s amiable to everyone he meets, even the overachieving police officer (Sunita Mani), who finds a new reason to interrogate Charles each time she circles the block. With the help of his new friends, Charles reflects on his romantic relationship and contemplates reconciliation.

The film, which was written and directed by Casimir Nozkowski, sets an easy pace to match Charles’s mild ennui. The only problem is that the movie doesn’t supplement its lack of stakes with style or substance. The cinematography is flat and lifeless, and Charles and his neighbors represent Brooklyn street style with oversize cardigans and rumpled button-ups. This is a toothless version of the city, where disputes between neighbors are solved without a single swear word, where confrontations with police are resolved over a sandwich. Even the streets seem scrubbed of grime, grit, color and texture. It’s a movie with images that are as squeaky clean as its faultless characters, a cinematic view that feels better suited to a sitcom suburb.

The Outside Story
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 25 minutes. Rent or buy on Apple TV, Google Play and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators.

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