By: Trevor Chartrand
A brilliant slice-of-life comedy, The Outside Story is a charming and lighthearted little film. This day-in-the-life movie tells the story of Charles Young (Hotel Artemis’ Brian Tyree Henry), an introverted video editor who’s down in the dumps after splitting up with his ex. After accidentally locking himself out of his apartment, this homebody is forced to stop and smell the roses in his neighbourhood for the first time since he moved in. While stuck outside shoeless and waiting for a key, Charles discovers the vibrancy of his community and the diverse personalities of his quirky neighbours.
The premise and approach taken by the filmmakers is very reminiscent of some of the best Seinfeld episodes. A classic bottle premise with plenty of comedy potential, as Charles makes zany attempts to get back inside the house. Now while the film is funny, it also takes a surprising and heartwarming turn part-way through when the discouraged Charles is forced to pay attention to the people in his neighbourhood for the first time in years. There’s a lot of surprising warmth in this feel-good picture.
Since Charles is also faced with an impending work deadline, the script establishes stakes and a ticking clock element that effectively keeps tensions high. To keep the premise from wearing thin, Charles meets a unique cast of colorful New York characters – from an uptight traffic cop to a neighbour who’s orgy is constantly being interrupted.
In the wrong hands, a film like this would fizzle out quickly, but this script by writer/director Casimir Nozkowski is perfectly balanced in such a way that it never becomes too silly, but never slows to a halt, either. A simple premise like this one can easily be tipped too far in either direction and, fortunately, we only toe the line on each side.
The performances throughout The Outside Story are comedic and spot-on, with most of the cast playing up a slightly caricaturized version of various New York stereotypes. Exaggerations aside, the strongest characters Charles meets are the the more tragic and down-to-earth neighbours, including Sara (Lynda Gravatt) and Elena (Olivia Edward). In fact, for a young up-and-coming actor, Olivia Edward has arguably one of the most challenging roles in the film as Elena, and she carries herself with an incredible maturity. The character is almost tragic with a tough home life, and a problematic mother who emotionally abuses her. She handles the material quite well, showcasing a lot of potential from this young performer.
Ironically, this is a film that encourages viewers to go out and meet new people, to contribute to their communities, and it is being released at a time when many of us are stuck inside ourselves, in quarantine. The wholesome message of the film is a much-needed reminder of the human need for interaction, and gives this reviewer hope for better times to come. The Outside Story is a great reminder of what we’ve been missing during some trying times, and the optimistic promise of a lifestyle we can look forward to reclaiming, hopefully, sometime soon.
A highly recommended film overall, The Outside Story is a light-hearted and easy watch, and it’s bound to put a smile on your face.
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Trevor Chartrand: @OhHaiTrebor