3.5 Stars
Year Released: 2010
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 60 minutes
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Baltimore-based underground filmmaker Jimmy Traynor is back, this time with an earnest drama about an African-American family that pays a severe price for attempting to climb up the socio-economic ladder.

The Johnson family moves into a new house in an upscale neighborhood, yet there is little time to enjoy their new surroundings.  The father (Leroy Taylor) works one full-time and two part-time jobs to financially maintain this new residence, but the strain of his labors leads to an increasingly erratic job performance.  The mother (Sharon Nelson), feeling isolated from her workaholic husband, dives furiously into church activities – but her focus is so tight that she is oblivious to the overt attentions of a fellow parishioner.  Their teenage son (Kelvin Page) has not been able to assimilate with his peers at his new school, and a reunion with a pal from the old neighborhood puts him into the depth of trouble that his parents feared in the old neighborhood.

“Second Chance” is an uncommonly sincere and mature domestic drama that tackles very timely issues relating to family structure and financial stability. While the film might have benefited from a little more adrenalin in its early scenes, it eventually unfolds into a quietly devastating portrait of a family whose search for a better life is derailed by their failure to consider they already possess. Without spilling too much of the ending, it can be said that “Second Chance” concludes with a message that may surprise those expecting the usual revenge-is-sweet formula.

“Second Chance” is also an interesting career change for Traynor. While the filmmaker’s best work is in the anarchic comic vein – a bit of that is on-screen here in his performance as a high-strung weirdo that is uncomfortable with his new next-door neighbors – “Second Chance” shows that he is able to present a Cassavetes-worthy drama with style and grace.  This is a fine addition to his prolific and impressive canon.

Posted on September 7, 2010 in Reviews by

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