Adolescence is one of the most awkward stages of anyone’s life. At this age, you are not considered a kid anymore, and adulthood is not on the horizon either. But you find yourself conflicted with so many new thoughts and feelings that you had no idea you were capable of. Be it a new-found discovery of sexual attraction or an added sense of responsibility, it is not an easy phase to navigate your way through. ‘1-800-Hot-Nite’, directed by Nick Richey, understands that and also knows the value of peers in one’s personality development or regard to a sense of kinship beyond family. Written by the director himself, the film’s screenplay works upon these internal conflicts of living in troubling environments.

Tommy (Dallas Dupree Young), a black kid in his mid-teen years, is very close with his two friends – Steve (Mylen Bradford) and O’Neill (Gerrison Machado). They roam around the town, freewheeling as their whims and desires tell them to do. As mentioned before, this is the age when they start discovering sexual attraction. Yet throughout their mischiefs and adventures, their bond seems unbreakable. So, when Tommy’s father gets captured by the police for dealing drugs, these two friends of his try everything they can to let this friend have the life that he desires. The majority of the film follows their attempts to live and enjoy a life as teenagers, which, in their case, feels like a big ask.

When Tommy is left with no father to take care of him, the child protection services want him to come along with them, who wish for him to have a good life. Their intentions may be earnest, but for an adolescent, that is like robbing off a precious part of his life, where he wanted to be carefree. As a result, Steve and O’Neill help him escape from the service officials and they spend an entire night running away from these adults. When you are on your own with no one to take care of you, feed you, and be there for you, you need money. The three understand that and hatch a plan to help to gather some amount to be independent.

1-800-Hot-Nite (2022) Movie Review

Even if it is their naivety thinking that their immature plan would care, what matters is their undying optimism in this wishful thinking. The camaraderie between them is an absolute treat to witness, which makes the thriller drama, an endearing affair. While these kids try to find their way through an adult world filled with different obsessions, prejudices and whatnot, they stick together through thick and thin. The film attempts to introspect on the capitalistic country’s complicated relationship with the underprivileged population. We see a character of a woman, who chooses to get money by seducing others on phone calls. One can judge her way of living from a distance and criticize her.

However, the lack of options for a person in her position or that of Tommy’s father, who is trying to survive or gain a semblance of self-respect, is what needs to be looked at with more consideration. ‘1-800-Hot-Nite’ looks at these people with empathy. Even when the kids try to use someone else’s credit card to get the thrill of phone sex, or this woman on the other side tries to benefit from their sexual thirst, the film showcases them without any judgement. Another distinguishably impressive factor is the feeling it evokes that you are seeing the film from these children’s perspective.

With The Florida Project, Sean Baker and the cinematographer Alexis Zabe explored the Florida township from the kid’s heights. While ‘1-800-Hot-Nite’ does not have an identifiable stylistic factor such as that, the execution certainly takes you through the streets at night through the children’s eyes. When you see Tommy’s father being taken away, you sense Tommy’s lack of hope and bewilderment the deepest. Even when this particular aspect of America’s relation with race has been explored in the past, it feels distinct in this film due to the gaze.

Even when the direction sails the boat for most of the film’s duration, the screenplay feels inadequate in exploring its thematic elements. The factor of resignation after endless running is more impactful due to the performances, more than the writing. The deep connection you feel with the characters is more because of the direction that lets the actors work their charm while giving them enough space and time to do so. Besides that, there is sadly nothing that has not been explored before.


1-800-HOT-NITE (2022) TRAILER


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