Ricky (Sheldon Shepherd), the hero of Storm Saulter's ambitious coming-of-age drama "Better Mus' Come," is a man for all seasons. Gangster, community leader, part-time poet, full-time dad, Ricky negotiates the dangerous complexities of the culture of violence inflaming Jamaica in the late '70s, uncertain what path he should take.
"You cannot fight the righteous battle with weapons of war," Ricky is told, though, given the political unrest and poverty of his country, the words are easier to say than practice.
Saulter's feature debut doesn't lack for ambition. Taking Jamaica's notorious 1978 Green Bay Massacre as its end point, "Better Mus' Come" aims to make a connection between Cold War politics and the gang warfare rampant on the streets during that period. There's also a star-crossed romance between the charismatic Ricky and a bright country girl (Nicole Sky Grey), numerous neighborhood gun battles and a brief detour into the tenets of the Rastafari movement.
It's a tad overstuffed, but never lacks for interest. And Saulter, who serves as his own director of photography, has a poet's eye for detail, capturing the beauty of his native country, even in its most extreme poverty. The movie's title, a message of hope for the future, could easily apply to the filmmaker as well.
"Better Mus' Come."
No MPAA rating.
Running time: 1 hour, 44 minutes.
At the Downtown Independent, Los Angeles.
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