Unapologetic and free-spirited Inez kidnaps her six-year-old son Terry from the foster care system. Holding onto their secret and each other, mother and son set out to reclaim their sense of home, identity, and stability, in a rapidly changing New York City.—Focus Features
A. V. Rockwell’s gritty Sundance award-winning drama about a headstrong woman named Inez (Teyana Taylor) who will jump through any barrier in order to keep her life together. Rockwell (who also wrote) sets her tale in New York city. Inez takes her seven year old son Terry out of foster care and rents a ratty apartment. Her ex, Lucky (William Catlett), eventually joins them and they make for an uneasy family. The timeline covers over a decade in their lives.
It begins in 1994 in what Rockwell clearly depicts as “Rudy Giuliani’s New York”. No matter what Inez says or does, it seems to always be interpreted in the most negative manner conceivable. Of course, she doesn’t make it any easier on herself by being as brutally honest as she can be. Terry (played by three actors) just wants a mother and a place to call “home”. To Rockwell’s credit, she never takes the obvious way out. She just shows the reality of the situation. There will be no magical saviors or heaven-sent miracles. Inez and Lucky are stuck in a cycle of poverty and all they can do is to pray that Terry can break free of that vicious circle.
Eric Yue’s cinematography never glamorizes the surroundings and is augmented by some very well chosen stock footage to convincingly depict the three time periods (1994, 2001 & 2005). The music is similarly well-chosen.
Taylor and Catlett are exceptional, never overplaying the drama, nor hiding behind any semblance of vanity to make their characters “look good”. The only major flaw here is how 17 year old Terry (Josiah Cross) is portrayed. The audience is told he’s an incredibly bright student, yet he’s never really given the opportunity to demonstrate it. Terry is shown to be shy from an early age, but, it’s still frustrating to never see any true assertiveness from the young man. He’s a whiz at science and math — but, wants to be an artist (a common Sundance trope). These aren’t a fatal flaws, but, notable.
A THOUSAND AND ONE (the title refers to the apartment address) is a strong feature debut for Rockwell, with a heart-breaking final act which, in keeping with the main body of the movie, gives no facile solutions. Just more questions.