“Good Funk” is an indie drama told in a series of sketches, interconnected lives facing a gentrifying Red Hook (Brooklyn) with despair, frustration and vague hope. There’s not much to it, but like its title, it’s a character study with a groove.
Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris plays Akifah, a single mom struggling to survive on a McDonald’s salary. She who entertains her ten-year-old (Leonay Shepherd) with tales of the child’s absent father. He’s not dead, not that she knows. He didn’t “leave” them.
“I wasn’t in a position to ask questions.”
Their lives and the dynamics of the relationship are upended when they’re evicted. Kolo the kid lets her inner brat out.
William Nadylam and Kalae Nouveau are Terence and Joyce. He’s “an old family friend” of Akifah, an immigrant of means who is just “holding out” for the neighborhood property values to spike as a new “coliseum” is about to change the place. Joyce is a singer, the daughter of a singer, and hasn’t given much thought to kids until they take in Kolo.
And Cedric Cannon and Sandra Reaves-Phillips are Oscar and Eva, an older couple responding to the strain of these “changes,” with mistrust and stress testing their relationship.
A character will melt down, another face accusations that “you’re using again.” Selling an apartment, vacant lot bonfire jams, session work, caring for an elderly mother and police harassment pepper the “plot,” such as it is.
But what writer-director Adam Kritzer was going for is vibe, a melancholy tone, “funk” in its mental health sense.
The performances have a lovely informality, with indie film mainstay Larry Fessenden showing up as a sympathetic McDonald’s colleague and Luqmaan-Harris nicely capturing the deflating depression of struggling with poverty, and being entirely “too good” for that.
Kitzer makes good use of a modest selection of locations, streets, apartments, subway platforms and riverside scenes. The spare plot and limited locations suits the indie nature of it all. Nouveau’s singer Joyce is summoned to a recording session, where the woman wanting her voice uses her real name — Kalae. That’s a retake on a “Hollywood” production.
Like Red Hook itself, “Good Funk” is worth a look, even if you know you’ll need to move on to find something and some place with more excitement in it.
MPA Rating: unrated, adult situations
Cast: Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris, William Nadylam, Kalae Nouveau, Leonay Shepherd, Larry Fessenden, Cedric Cannon and Sandra Reaves-Phillips
Credits: Scripted and directed by Adam Kritzer. A 1091 release.
Running time: 1:14