Sundance Film Festival 2023. Review of “Ricky” by Rashad Frett

Rashad Frett’s short film, Ricky, that premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, is an affecting and compelling portrait of an ex-offender struggling with new freedom and pursuing redemption at all costs.

Ricky follows the journey of a recently released felon who tries to start a new life after prison and is given an opportunity to work at his neighbor’s restaurant.

With Ricky, Frett not only deftly explores, but denounces America’s prison system that impacts the lives of the ex-convicts who are readjusting to society as it creates a vicious and deadly cycle of recidivism and the discriminatory outcome of the U.S. judicial system in communities of color. Frett also delicately honors the lives of the families impacted by the lack of resources for the successful transition of people with felonies and the daily battles they face to reintegrate back into society.

Frett carefully constructs a character study that closely follows its protagonist as he deals with his move to freedom. He does that by enhancing Ricky’s distress, apprehension and nervousness while simultaneously showing the audience his will and need for redemption and potential for a better life, but nevertheless holding the threat of incarceration over his head at all times, thus exacerbating Ricky’s inner turmoil.  Frett does that by distorting the sound whenever Ricky’s left with his own thoughts during a conversation with others. Frett keeps Ricky trapped in his own head and thus brilliantly conveys the paralyzing nature of fear, but also reminds us at all times the power of emotional scars. We are always with Ricky. And, this is precisely what makes Ricky such a powerful film and Frett a talent to watch. Indeed, Frett’s directing is so precise and so assured that the end result is magnificently impactful. Moreover, he manages to extract nuanced and clever performances from all his cast, notably from lead actor Parish Bradley who is a complete and utter revelation. All techs are on point, especially Sam Motamedi’s crisp lensing, completely in tune with the extremely precise editing, courtesy of the Motamedi-Frett combo.

Ricky is a remarkably layered film, and a harrowing meditation on choices, consequences and regret. And, Frett a director to keep a watchful eye on because he knows what he wants and he gets it.

Production:  (USA, 2023)

Producers: Pierre M. Coleman, Ramfis Myrthil, Simon Taufique

Executive producers: Cary Fukunaga, Mark Manson, A.J. Leon, James Cole, Jr.

Director: Rashad Frett

Screenplay: Rashad Frett

Cinematography: Sam Motamedi

Music: Simon Taufique

Production design: Aariyan Googe

Editing: Rashad Frett, Sam Motamedi

Cast: Parish Bradley, Simbi Kali, Reese Antoinette, Maliq Johnson, Karen Chilton, Shanice Marcia

Color – 20 min.

Premiere: 19/01/2023 (Sundance Film Festival)

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