At first glance, Across the Line is a common film that exposes a type of impressionable racial discrimination filmmakers have acknowledged before. This time, the devastation hits close to home (Nova Scotia) and allows a breakout director to handle the heavy material in a different way that doesn’t dance around the aftermath.
The uniquely credited Director X’s extensive résumé consists of music video experience. From Ice Cube’s Next Friday anthem ‘You Can Do It’ to Nelly Furtado and Timbaland’s ‘Promiscuous’ to Drake’s ever popular ‘Hotline Bling’, X has tried his hand at a variety of different styles and atmospheres. Across the Line marks his debut as a film director and while Across the Line is fairly safe in terms of narrative, Director X’s approach to the material solidifies him as a promising auteur with admirable self-discipline.
The roomy story features an up-and-coming hockey star (Mattie played by Race’s Stephan James) facing inescapable judgements along with other black high school students. Confrontations between kids of different colour are tepidly provoked, but that doesn’t stop the teens from jumping on each other. It’s as if they’re all waiting for the other to slip up. At home, a wayward sibling reinforces a stereotype by taking up a life of crime which disappoints and embarrasses Mattie’s family.
The relentless drama takes place when Mattie realizes how easily his fortune can be rocked. In order for him to belong in good standing, he’s advised to keep his personal life calm. This isn’t a problem for Mattie – who is generally a laid-back scholar – except when his community tests his goodwill through harmful association.
Across the Line’s well-cast ensemble are all knockouts; they all disappear into their characters. Director X (along with Menalon’s original music that intensely vibrates) compliments the performances by using a nimble skill enabling him to pull specific emotions from the audience in a matter of seconds – the music videos must’ve paid off. The filmmaker is also very calculative with modern references through technology and decorative details. It’s a reminder that these dated and hateful opinions still exist within our seemingly progressive society.
Hot off its wins at this year’s Canadian Film Festival (Best First Feature and Best Actor), Director X’s uncompromising Across the Line is a buzzworthy flick.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie