The plights of modern black women are rarely highlighted on screen, placing extra pressure on the seldom offerings to capture lightning in a bottle. The dearth of authentic tales makes Tamara Bass and Meagan Good’s newest venture If Not Now, When? a delightful surprise. As an earnest exploration of sisterhood and familial difficulties, Bass and Good touch upon genuine sentiments with their well-versed offering.
If Not Now, When? follows four friends (Bass, Good, Meagan Holder, and Mekia Cox), who met in high school and are bonded by their difficult upbringings. They are suddenly forced back together when one of them suffers a crisis, putting their delicate friendship to the test as the four search for self-fulfillment.
A narrative encompassing addiction, marital disconnect, and personal acceptance could be combustible in the wrong hands. Thankfully, the film never drifts towards maudlin territory. Bass and Cook’s sure-handed delivery ensures authenticity at every turn, examining familiar dynamics with an effectively empathetic eye. Bass’ screenplay allows each conflict to breathe with thoughtful complexion, never offering cheap answers to its universal problems.
Whether it’s small-knit exchanges or grandly emotional frames, the dialogue threads an impressive balance between raw power and seamless interplay. If Not Now, When? rarely feels false, offering intimate examinations of characters who are often underserved by Hollywood norms.
The fruitful material prospers under the cast’s sensitive hands. Meagan Good grounds Tyra’s addiction subplot through her sensitive delivery, never allowing the intimate struggle to reach overly-theatric territory. For Tamara Bass, Mekia Cox, and Meagan Holder, their warm performances should serve as a much-deserved breakout. The three stars grab the screen with effortless chemistry, naturally capturing the highs and lows of a decade-long friendship. The central four’s effervescent appeals carry the narrative load capably.
If Not Now, When? develops a strong core for audiences to invest in, but its strengths are underserved by clumsy craftsmanship choices. Good and Bass offer competent imagery and a deft handling of tonality (their film has steaks without ever feeling hopeless). However, the duo’s debut doesn’t always embrace the material’s simple strengths. Dramatic frames are often overwhelmed by overbearing song choices, leaving audiences digging through theatrics to reach insular developments. I wish Good and Bass trusted their material enough to avoid the constant overselling, though I am confident the two can evolve with further experience.
While somewhat marred by technical hiccups, If Not Now, When? comfortably reaches its emotionally resonant sentiments. I hope to see Good and Bass direct again in the future.
IF NOT NOW, WHEN? is On Demand and Digital on January 8.
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