Add Markees Christmas to the list of promising new actors. He makes a strong showing in Morris from America
, a coming of age flick about a boy who struggles to adjust to living in Germany with his father Curtis (Craig Robinson), a former basketball player who now coaches a soccer team in Heidelberg. The movie opens on Friday at Shaker Square Cinemas.
In part because of a language barrier, the hip-hop obsessed Morris struggles to connect with his classmates. He thinks he has a friend in his German tutor (Carla Juri), but she loses his trust when she tells his father things he confesses to her. And he thinks he has a friend in Katrin (Lina Kelle), a classmate who takes a liking to him. But it turns out that she has a serious boyfriend, something that Morris struggles to accept, even though he willingly becomes the third wheel when they head to a party, so she can watch her boyfriend perform as a DJ.
The boyfriend lets Morris take the mic during one segment, and he performs admirably, riling the crowd up with a bit of freestyle that shows off his skills. But Morris never told his father that he was heading out of town and when he gets stranded, Curtis and he have it out. “We’re the only two brothers in Heidelberg,” Curtis tells him, emphasizing the fact that he knows the racism in Germany makes it difficult to acclimate but that they've got to stick together. It's a great moment in an understated film about growing up and dealing with adversity, and Christmas plays Morris as a troubled outsider you can't help but like despite his flaws.
The film’s terrific soundtrack features tunes by Jeru the Damaja, Craig Mack and the Notorious B.I.G., giving the movie its unique flavor. While the film, a hit at Sundance, probably won’t have wide appeal, it establishes both writer-director Chad Hartigan (This Is Martin Bonner
) and Christmas as stars on the rise.