Medicine for Melancholy

  • Directed by Barry Jenkins
  • United States, 2008, 88 mins., English

Barry Jenkins found mainstream success in 2016 with his Oscar-winning coming-of-age tale Moonlight, but prior to that breakthrough, he made another excellent feature: Medicine for Melancholy. Set in rapidly-gentrifying San Francisco, the film chronicles the one-day stand of Jo (Tracey Heggins) and Micah (Wyatt Cenac), two twenty-something African-Americans who hook up after a party, head their separate ways, but reconnect by chance—and proceed to spend the day together, talking about their racial identity, gentrification in the city, and the issue of assimilation into white hipster culture as a means of getting by. Poignantly desaturated images give a symbolic weight to the oppressiveness of whiteness in the Bay, while extended dialogue between Jo and Micah—really the only two full characters in the film—give the story ample space to breathe. “Micah comes across as pro-black, and Jo’s is more of a post-race point of view. When I started the film I was teetering between these two viewpoints. It’s like I was splitting my personality in two. For me the film ended up being even more about class than race. Micah talks about the city pushing black people out, but it’s really about pushing poor people out. I used to be obsessed with race. I’m more obsessed with class now.”— Barry Jenkins, The New York Times.

Genres: Drama