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Wyatt Cenac carefully negotiates intimacy in a talky San Fran romance

Tracey Heggins, Wyatt Cenac

Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: Arriving in select theaters Friday, The End Of The Tour belongs to a fine tradition of movies that feature little more than two actors gabbing at each other. We’ve lined up five days of the same, recommending some fine two-person talkfests.

Medicine For Melancholy (2008)

Writer-director Barry Jenkins’ debut Medicine For Melancholy is most often noted for its conversations, provocative tête-à-têtes between its two characters, Micah (Wyatt Cenac) and Joanne (Tracey Heggins), who spend a day ambling around San Francisco, sparring over interracial relationships, gentrification, and wealth inequality. Indeed, Micah and Joanne’s talk is striking and thought-provoking, but so is their action, as Melancholy is the rare chatty two-hander in which body language speaks louder than words.


The pair awakens together after a one-night stand at a house party and awkwardly agrees to share a cab home, not because they’re necessarily eager to spend more time together, but because the etiquette in such situations is so ill-defined. Joanne inadvertently leaves her wallet behind, and when Micah hops on his bike to return it to her, the gesture turns into a series of tiny kindnesses and a reclamation of the physical intimacy they had taken for granted only hours before. It’s a slow and steady negotiation, with neither Micah nor Joanne assuming the closeness they established while drunk will survive the transition to sobriety. Jenkins thoughtfully chooses his shots to show how the pair’s proximity is mottled with distance. When Micah accompanies Jo on an errand, she asks him to lock up her bike in the background while a light pole divides them in the foreground, symbolizing the split between them even as they stand mere inches apart. Later, in a visit to an art museum, he furtively lays a hand on the small of her back, and she doesn’t flinch. Within hours, they’re enjoying a little afternoon delight in a faithful recreation of their drunken initial meeting.

Micah and Joanne’s day together derails near the end, as he struggles with the realization that her “probably white” boyfriend, currently away on a business trip, will at some point return. Naturally, he doesn’t communicate his feelings with that level of clarity. Instead, he rails against the marginalization of the black experience in San Francisco and the white-washing of the city at large, and she bristles at his sharp tone. If only Micah’s words could speak as eloquently as his tiny, hasty caresses.

Availability: Medicine For Melancholy is available on DVD from Netflix, Amazon, and possibly your local video store/library. It’s also currently streaming on Netflix and can be rented or purchased digitally from Amazon or iTunes.

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