An Alluringly Understated Glimpse at Lovers Whose Lives Escape Them in a Haze of Smoke in Newlyweeds
Ganja gets a couple high before dragging them low in Newlyweeds, a small-scale domestic drama that won't help further the legalization cause. In Bed-Stuy, Lyle (Amari Cheatom) dulls the pain of his dreary repo-man life by smoking up with girlfriend Nina (Trae Harris), who gives museum tours to elementary school students while stoned. Theirs is a relationship founded on escaping mundanity through marijuana, though when Nina—instigated by a worldly coworker (Colman Domingo)—decides that she'd like to actually follow through on Lyle's stated desire to visit the Galapagos, friction mounts. Debut writer-director Shaka King dramatizes her characters' descent into disarray with disarming intimacy, capturing the relaxed bliss of their pot-fueled rapport while simultaneously maintaining focus on the squalor that surrounds—and is at least partly created by—their druggie existence. Far from preachy, Newlyweeds treats its subject matter with increasingly sobering gravity, and both Cheatom and Harris embody their characters not as cartoons but as lonely, misguided souls too blazed to realize the error of their ways. As they stumble into ever-greater trouble, King's beautifully understated direction visualizes how a haze of smoke leaves Lyle disconnected from both Nina and—as quietly evoked by a mournful final sequence—himself as well.
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