Review: Morris from America

Score: B+

Director: Chad Hartigan

Cast: Craig Robinson, Markees Christmas, Carla Juni

Running Time: 91 min

Rated: R


It’s rare nowadays to find a coming-of-age story that feels fresh. We’ve all had the teenage experience and thus coming-of-age films abound. That’s partially what makes Morris from America so captivating to watch – it may be quiet and unsure of itself like its titular character, but that just makes the connection feel much more special.


Thirteen-year-old Morris (Markees Christmas) and his father Curtis (Craig Robinson) are very close, easily switching from ribbing each other on their taste in music to Curtis getting upset with his son for not calling. Their friendship makes even more sense once you learn that they’ve recently relocated from America to Heidelberg, Germany, where Curtis has taken a job as a soccer coach on a team he once played on. I was struck by how Morris’s situation is uniquely difficult. It’s hard enough to be thirteen, let alone thirteen in a new city, let alone thirteen in a new country that speaks a language you’re only starting to learn. And of course he’s black in a predominantly white country. Top that off with Morris’s naturally quiet and shy demeanor, and you’ve got a helluva uphill battle.


With the odds stacked against him, you can’t help but root for Morris as he tries to make friends outside of his college-aged German tutor (Carla Juri) and win the affections of a local older girl, Katrin (Lina Keller). Katrin is 15 and completely glamorous in Morris’s eyes, and friendly enough to take Morris under her wing.


While the first half is a quietly brilliant look at the awkward Morris trying to fit in, the second half smacks of coming-of-age film tropes. Morris gets pressured into trying drugs and alcohol and begins disobeying his father, actions that eventually come full circle to teach him a lesson about being true to yourself. Even though the second half is a bit stale, by that point you’re rooting for Morris so much that you don’t care. You want him to step up and impress everyone with his freestyle skills and you want him to get the girl (although preferably one his own age).


In the end, Morris and his father learn some valuable lessons about growing up and adjusting to new places. While it’s fun and enjoyable to watch from beginning to end, Morris from America doesn’t offer much in the way of message. But as the film winds down, Morris is in a better spot and more comfortable than at the beginning. And for a thirteen-year-old black kid living in Germany, that’s kind of all you can hope for.


About Katie Anaya

Katie Anaya

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