Yelling to the Sky

| February 5, 2013

Yelling to the Sky is a bad girl movie that brings together two biracial sisters, one of whom catches hell at home from her white father and also at school, as she is bullied on a daily basis. Their mother, played by Yolonda Ross,  also is verbally and physically abused by the father played by Jason Clarke.  Zoe Kravitz plays 17-year-old Sweetness O’Hara, who finally learns that she must make a way for herself, because her parents are not able to or are not interested in helping her survive her final teen years.

I first saw Yelling to the Sky at a local film festival, and I was intrigued because Gabourey Sidibe, of Precious fame, was one of the lead girl bullies at the school.

Antonique Smith plays the older sister, Ola, who has a baby and seems to be in a fractured relationship with her boyfriend. Yelling to the Sky could tell the story of young girls going to high school anywhere in the country—they are always looking to fit in. But in the case of Sweetness, she only seems at home at the house of a local drug dealer, played by Tariq Trotter. In the opening scenes, a pregnant Ola defends Sweetness against a bunch of teens who are bent on relieving her of her bicycle. It doesn’t matter to Ola that she is pregnant; she is just concentrating on beating the daylights out of a young man who was the main antagonist.

Admittedly, the girls don’t have much chance at a good life—what with living in the ghetto with an alcoholic father and a mother who is battling mental illness. Early on in the movie, also, the mother just leaves after being abused by the father. She eventually returns but seems really detached from all that is happening in the household. It was kind of weird to see Clarke, of The Wire and Zero Dark Thirty fame, playing an abusive husband and father. Sidibe as one of the bullies finally gets her dues, when Sweetness gets some gall and courage and jumps her at school. This courage, however, comes from her selling drugs, shoplifting and hanging out with two of the girls who at one time were her enemies.

Only a few symbols of normalcy exist within the household, as the mother dotes on the baby and prepares breakfast one morning. The father even buys the newborn a toy and brings home groceries. However, a round of handball with the drug dealer ends up with him being ambushed and murdered on the spot.

At the end, everything still doesn’t seem to be wrapped in a pretty bow, but the father seems more loving and determined to pay attention to Sweetness and her surroundings.

The title seems telling: Yelling to the Sky is exactly what Sweetness appears to be doing in the end, as she crumbles into her father’s chest trying to find herself, while assuring herself that his presence will stick this time. Yelling to the Sky is by actress-turned-director Victoria Mahoney and is available on Blu-ray February 5. Visit www.mpihomevideo,com for more information.

About the Author:

Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., is an editor, writer and film critic in Chicago. She is the author of "Old School Adventures from Englewood--South Side of Chicago" and the proud parent of "the smart rapper"--chemist-turned-rapper, turned humanitarian...Psalm One!
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