The title of this film tells you the characters are going to lose, that whoever Mister and Pete are they would not win the lottery or ride off into the sunset. Yet, none of this prevented me from rooting for Mister (Skylan Brooks) and Pete (Ethan Dizon) throughout the film. It didn’t stop me from hoping against hope, crack, poverty, neglect and abuse that these kids would somehow, some way win.
The film takes place in the projects in Brooklyn. George Tillman Jr. delivers a vividly real and raw peak of life behind the closed doors of public housing where Mister and Pete live. These two characters are friends by default. Initially, their common denominator is the pain of having junkie/prostitute mothers. It doesn’t take long before they are forced to grow up and become family with Mister as father, big brother, and protector to the younger, more vulnerable, solemn Pete.
Jennifer Hudson, who plays Mister’s mother, gives a gripping performance as a junkie too strung out to feed her kid most days. With a negligent and sometimes absent parent, Mister has the survival skills and wit of a kid who has lived through a war. He has the mouth of a dragon and the heart of a lion to mask what's broken inside. I guess that’s what happens when a kid finds his mother, the woman he loves most, giving a stranger a blow job in a bathroom. Mister and Pete are forced into do or die war mode when Misters mother is arrested for the umpteenth time. Mister spends his summer of eighth grade dodging cops, robbers and crackheads, sharpening his con skills, scavenging for food and stealing when he must as he waits for his mother to return home and right her wrongs. With all odds against him, Mister dreams of becoming an actor and it is this dream that sustains him and Pete.
I fell in love with these characters and their dreams for a better mother, a better life. So, even though I knew they were going to lose, my heart broke in half when they did. Thank goodness I had tissue.
Jeffrey Wright and Anthony Mackie, who are seasoned, award winning actors, never stole a scene or even a moment from the young actors. Having the skill to hold back and still give a great performance is remarkable. The entire cast was excellent. George Tillman, Jr. draws the best out of everyone.
This poignant film evoked laughter, tears and every emotion in between. I could say so much more but I won’t because I want you to go see it for yourself. And when you take your seat in the theater…Man Up! This is real life.
P.S. Adebisi (Oz) is in the movie!