Sundance London Film Review: Filly Brown

Directed by Youseff Delara & Michael D. Olmos
Starring Gina Rodriguez, Chrissie Fit & Lou Diamond Phillips

It’s rare to find a star caliber performance from an up and coming talent, but when it’s out there, you’ll never stop thinking about it. Filly Brown is the tale of just that, an up and comer, someone new to the music business with incredible talent but doesn’t fully grasp what the industry is. In a way that sort of mirrors the movies own star (a word I use to the fullest extent), Gina Rodriguez, though I doubt she has any problems working within the industry of film. Majo (Rodriguez) is a 20 something girl with hopes and dreams that are balanced out by having to look out for her family, whilst her mother (Jenni Rivera) is in jail and her father (Phillips), whilst present, has his own issues. Despite all this she still strives to create a name for herself as a hip-hop artist, but when she does, it’s not exactly what she thought it would be.

Now before you stop reading this review thinking, “oh this is just another Step Up/8 Mile wannabe”, you’re wrong. Filly Brown has enough charisma in its execution that it is able to break free of any clichés one might attach to it. The direction from Youssef Delara and Michael D. Olmos is smart. The film often feels like it’s torn between two different styles, flash and stylish mixed with dirt and grit, this perfectly mirrors the life of Majo and gives a nice sort of pace to the film, not allowing the audience to grow weary of what they are watching. The writing is strong, though not strikingly original, the plot isn’t entirely new but it’s how the film is played out that makes it stand tall.

One cannot discuss this movie without talking about the stand out work from Gina Rodriguez, easily one of the talents to watch out for. We immediately care for the character from the opening scene, the way she spits her lyrics with such aggression and care, it’s clear that there is a wild passion behind her performance, it wouldn’t be surprising if she get Oscar buzz. Remember her name (though you won’t need to, it’s going to be everywhere soon enough). Not only can she act, the girl can sing, the original music by Reza Safinia is just as integral to the character development as Rodriguez’s characterisation, the lyrics will be stuck in your head for weeks after the film has ended, shame a soundtrack isn’t out yet. Rodriguez is not alone here though; she’s backed up by old pros like Edward James Olmos and Lou Diamond Phillips who give strong performances in supporting roles whilst newcomer Chrissie Fit is delightful as Majo’s younger sister.

Forget any reservations you may have about the plot, what is on offer here is a strong film made by people who obviously have a deep love for what they have done and as always, that is truest essence of filmmaking. This is what real up and coming talent is, it’s not perfect but that makes it even better because that way it gives us something more to look forward to. Go see it.


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