Release Date: Aug. 26
Director: Richard Tanne
Production Company: Get Lifted Film Company
Duration: 84 Minutes
It’s hard to imagine a time when the president and first lady weren’t polished, professional political figures. It’s even harder to imagine a time when the two of them weren’t married — when Michelle Obama was simply Michelle Robinson. However, “Southside with You” takes us back to their very first date in the summer of 1989 with a beautiful and talented portrayal of our president and first lady.
The characters of Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson, played by Parker Sawyers and Tika Sumpter, are impressively accurate in both their physical and verbal portrayals. Sumpter’s speech is polite, smart and clearly enunciated — all defining characteristics of the first lady’s voice. In ways so minute that they are often hard to pinpoint, Sawyers precisely mimics President Obama’s easily recognizable voice.
Although Obama was not the politician we know him as today in the summer of 1989, Sawyers clearly portrays the potential that Obama carries with him at 27. His character is responsible, smart and caring while still being youthful and joking, mirroring the way the president knows how to combine work and fun today. He may be the leader of our country, but he is also the man who admitted to smoking weed when he was younger and who isn’t afraid to mic drop at the end of a speech.
The story itself begins as Robinson and Obama are preparing for the date. At the time, they are merely co-workers — Robinson is Obama’s advisor and an attorney at the law firm that he is interning for. Robinson is opposed to the idea of this being a date, and she speaks frequently of the struggles of being a women of color in 1980s America. However, between Obama’s charm and some meaningful conversation shared between the two of them, Robinson begins to warm to the idea of them throughout the course of their long and eventful date.
The film’s plot is both pleasing and well-constructed. The movie often speaks about the importance and struggles of African American culture, but it also strongly suggests feelings of hope for both the future of America and the magnitude of the future of this couple — known to the audience but clearly not yet to the characters.
The soundtrack is another notable aspect of the film. The music switches between funky 1980s jams for a fun, light-hearted tone and quiet, encompassing instrumentals that foster the sense of a potential blooming romance.
“Southside with You” is not an epic, dramatic romance. It is a quiet, thought-provoking film that is also very funny and witty at times. It makes no desperate grabs for your attention — your attention will be caught automatically through the believability of the characters. If your curiosity is already piqued about how such an important, but often not thought-about moment in history occurred, “Southside with You” will not disappoint.