Directed by Matthew Porterfield
Matthew Porterfield’s “Sollers Point” depicts social reintegration in a problematic environment corroded by unemployment and racism.
Keith Cohoe (McCaul Lombardi) is a 24-year-old con who has been living under home arrest in suburban Baltimore for nine months due to drug dealing. Hot-tempered and fan of heavy metal music, Keith lives with his father, Carol (James Belushi), a retired employee of the long gone Bethlehem Steel Plant, with whom he maintains an uneasy relationship. Even allowed to leave the house now, he continues in probation, so he mustn’t leave the state, a move he would take for sure since the atmosphere in the city is not ideal for him to get back on his feet.
Love, consolation, and support come from his benevolent grandmother, who offers to pay for his studies. However, he just wants to work and lead a decent life, an enormous challenge in a city that lacks opportunities. Moreover, his former gang mates, all black haters, keep stalking him as they see his transformation as a rejection. Segregation is a sad reality and the conflict is inevitable, especially with Aaron (Tom Guiry), who has to be pushed back by Keith’s Afro-American friend Marquis (Brieyon Bell-El) and his little crowd.
Keith’s amorous life is also an issue. He continues deeply attached to his ex-girlfriend, Courtney (Zazie Beetz), also an African American, despite having an open relationship with Jessie (Everleigh Brenner), a local stripper. Lacking the financial resources that would allow him to have an independent life, Keith gets trapped in a series of perils that make him realize he might have no other option than reconnect with the gang of drug dealers. The inescapability of the milieu leads to inconsiderate actions and his initial plan dampens with gloominess.
After a slowly developed first section, the low-key indie drama gets some grittiness coming from the hostile relationships, leading us to an offbeat finale that, understandably, may be classified as pointless or unsatisfying by many viewers.
Porterfield, who hails from Baltimore himself, extracts convincing emotions from the simplest scenes, pursuing the understated rather than the boisterous. The decreased intensity and long-suffering nature of the film are not obstructive since Keith’s frustration feels authentic and the backdrop/atmosphere painfully realistic.