‘Premature’ Presents a Raw Summer Romance

Images: IFC Films

Tales of summer romance are hardly novel, but director and writer Rashaad Ernesto Green’s Premature has a steady, naturalistic vision that immediately arrests the viewer. Green’s intimate love story focuses on 17-year-old poet Ayanna (Zora Howard) and the slightly older Isaiah (Joshua Boone), a musician and producer. The stage for their rapturous and all-consuming romance is New York City, and Laura Valladao’s raw cinematography and pound-the-pavement location shooting immerses you in the metropolis’ sweltering dog days. The copious use of exteriors—the tranquil greenery of parks, the hot Harlem sidewalks, the cool breeze of the Hudson River with the distant George Washington Bridge, the evening sky lit in fiery purple—lends the film a sense of airy openness, while the Kodak 16mm cinematography offers a dreamy, classical imagery to the lovers’ rendezvous.

Meeting by chance at a basketball court through friends, Isaiah takes Ayanna by surprise. She cannot resist his gentlemanly, charming demeanour and infectious sense of humour. Joshua Boone smoothly portrays Isaiah’s honest, caring attitudes and his passionate internal struggle for political truth in his art. The lovely and elegant piano score throughout the film is an extension of his creativity, one that truly carries the film to great emotional heights. Zora Howard, who also co-writes the film, spectacularly traces her character’s conflicting dualities: the artist she wants to be, the woman she is blossoming into, and her juvenile streetwise posturing with friends. The flow of conversation between Isaiah and Ayanna is natural and stimulating, and their shared artistic dreams profoundly connect them. As their relationship grows, Green frames their love scenes tastefully. These scenes are frank, depicting a deep, physical connection that is downright sexy and fairly playful.

The candid Premature also commendably shows how sex in committed relationships varies; it can be sweet, ravaging, even awkward and uncomfortable. In between the couple’s scenes, Ayanna takes the advice of her rowdy group of friends. The girls have popping chemistry thanks to the ensemble’s lively performances and Green and Howard’s exceptional writing of brisk, sharp banter. The film heralds true, everyday friendships in the girls’ faithful solidarity, silliness, and heated arguments.

Premature tells the story of Ayanna’s crash course in adulthood through her changing eyes. As a young girl on the cusp of starting college, she struggles to navigate what is very likely her first serious relationship—an intensely physical and romantic connection that leaves her head spinning. She questions her identity, wondering who she is both in this relationship and outside of it, and who she can become. Other older women in Isaiah’s orbit—his ex-girlfriend and co-worker—ignite her youthful insecurities and threaten her, throwing a monkey wrench into their domestic bliss. Zora Howard particularly shines during the grim latter half of the film, where Ayanna confronts the truly messy and frightening realities of adulthood for the first time. Her experience with heartbreak cuts the soul, and the tense scenes of Isaiah and Ayanna’s dissolution are both truthful and gut wrenching. Some plot points nearly descend into melodramatics, but Premature carefully maintains its admirable authenticity. The sweet ending could feel cliché in any other hands, but Green and Howard maintain a lyrical sense of realism throughout the film. This is what is so striking about Premature—it holds up a mirror to what being in a relationship is really like. The transfixing lead performances, crackling dialogue, and grounded vérité filming style all feel refreshingly honest; crafting a loving and tender vision of the transformations we go through when our soul joins another.

by Caroline Madden

Caroline hails from the home state of her hero, Bruce Springsteen. Her favourite films include Dog Day AfternoonRaging BullInside Llewyn Davis, and The Lord of the Rings. She has an MA degree in Cinema Studies from SCAD and also appears in Fandor, Reverse Shot, Crooked Marquee, and IndieWire. You can follow her on Twitter @crolinss. Order her book Springsteen as Soundtrack here

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