The earnest mash-up of spoken-word performance, domestic drama and soapy romance in "Things Never Said" is unwieldy, to be sure, and would have sunk a less charismatic cast. As two aspiring Los Angeles poets who fall in love while one of them is married, Shanola Hampton and Omari Hardwick have personality to spare. Their chemistry lends spark to TV writer Charles Murray's first feature, in which, the title notwithstanding, a multitude of things are said, loud and clear.
Hampton plays Kalindra, a waitress whose marriage to high school sweetheart Ronnie (Elimu Nelson) has exceeded its expiration date. The poetry she writes and performs at open-mike nights is her only passion — until Curtis (Hardwick), an audience regular, comes on strong. As in many romantic triangles, Kalindra's alternatives are clear: Her lover spouts poetry and offers encouragement; her husband, bitter over a dashed athletic career, feels threatened by her ambition.
The movie's poems are unambiguous rants, delivered with theatrical ferocity. On-the-nose dialogue propels its lessons in self-respect. Despite the lack of subtlety, the central trio are assured, with solid support from Tamala Jones, Michael Beach and Charlayne Woodard, as Kalindra's mother.
Murray structures and scales the material with a small-screen feel, albeit with R-rated elements. In schlocky song-backed bedroom scenes, he lays on the sexual healing. But he's interested in more than the considerable magnetism of his leads. He casts a discerning eye on churchgoing middle-class conformity within Kalindra's African American neighborhood, exemplified by the attitude of her mother, who prides herself on the sacrifices she's made.
"Things Never Said"
MPAA rating: R for pervasive language and some sexual content.
Running time: 1 hour, 52 minutes.
Playing: At Rave Cinemas Baldwin Hills.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun