Nov 2, 2018
Passing on Film Buff Fridays again this week, to continue getting caught up on Netflix Original films this year. Today’s film comes from across the pond, and for a few other UK Netflix Originals, check out “The Ritual” (Episode #045), “The Kissing Booth” (Episode #132), “Calibre” (Episode #189), and “Malevolent” (Episode #299). And if you have any suggestions, let me know at onemoviepunch.com.
Today’s movie is “Been So Long” (2018), the Netflix Original musical romantic drama, directed by Tinge Krishnan and written for the screen by Che Walker. The film follows Simone (Michaela Coel), a Camden single mother who meets Raymond (Arinzé Kene) while hanging out with her best friend. Now the two are getting to know each other, even as each deals with their own trials and tribulations. And ending up... somewhere.
The last musical I saw in the theaters was “La La Land”, on its fourth run I think in Ventura County. The second-run showing after their post-Oscar second-run, and, of course, I loved it, and realized that I don’t really give musicals much of a chance, mostly because the vast majority of musicals I end up watching are Disney features or the golden age of musicals. I sang, and I use that verb very loosely, in two musicals in high school, before they made all the television shows and movies glorifying arts programs. Would have been nice for a drama/arts wannabe like myself. So, I was surprised when today’s film popped up on Netflix, I think their first musical this year, aside from the art piece “Paradox” (Episode #086). And it was... okay.
“Been So Long” begins on a morning like any other in Camden, by which I mean an elevator that opens onto a lively market where everyone is singing and dancing, making sure that you know you are in a musical. The first number has a lot of duties, including setting the tone for the rest of the film and a measure of the playfulness we’ll see in the storytelling. If the entire film had been like this opening number, it would have been an epic slice of life musical, exploring the diversity of music in Camden. It runs the gambit of emotions, which is great, but also a variety of tones, and sometimes they clash, as with a weird subplot where a street addict with some form of serious mental illness is threatening Raymond while also doing some combination of jazz and breakdancing. A lot of distractions that take away from the textured and layered falling in love story, some of which are intentional and part of the plot, but also some which seem to be simply filling time.
Every individual performance is great, and the cast does a great job with the story as it was written, but sometimes they were failed by the sound mixing, especially when the vocals were drowned out, or when the music clashed with the tone. In fact, I would say the actors made their characters seem like they have a lot more story to tell, which is great for a slice of life film, but not for a falling in love story, at least where this film leaves off, anyway. The ending isn’t necessary abrupt, but unlike with a stage performance, you don’t want to leave the audience wanting more, at least for a feature film. I enjoyed every minute of the film, but still left it wanting more.
“Been So Long” (2018) is a fun, slice of life musical centered around a falling in love story, with the sights and sounds of Camden serving as a lively backdrop. While it can be confusing and can clash on more than a few levels, the performances are great as long as you are willing to leave your questions unanswered. Fans of musicals or romantic dramedies should definitely check out this film, but be advised it definitely deserves the TV-MA rating for more sensitive eyes and ears.
Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
One Movie Punch: 7.0/10
“Been So Long” (2018) is rated TV-MA and is currently streaming on Netflix and playing in select theaters.