“Insecure” showrunner, Prentice Penny, presents a fresh take on the Black father-son dynamic in his recent drama film “Uncorked”, now streaming on Netflix. Starring Mamoudou Athie, Niecy Nash, and Courtney B. Vance, the film showcases a story of love, sacrifice, and the struggles that come with following your heart.
Fueled by his love of wine, Elijah (Mamoudou Athie) decides to follow his dream of becoming a master sommelier, an elite designation for only the best wine stewards in the world. The biggest problem he faces is his father, Louis (Courtney B. Vance). Louis struggles to accept Elijah’s decision to pursue this difficult task instead of learning to run the family’s barbeque business in Memphis, TN.
Initially, Elijah tries to do both. He maxes out his savings to enroll in sommelier school while working shifts at the barbeque joint. After struggling to juggle an increasingly demanding course, a new relationship, and appeasing his father, Elijah finds himself having to choose between his passion and his path. He gains support from everyone except his father. This heavily impacts their relationship until a tragedy forces them both to slow things down.
Elijah and Louis’ relationship is a refreshing take on the Black father-son dynamic we don’t see often in cinema. The absence of basic stereotypes allows for the characters to be more three-dimensional and their interactions more authentic. Their lives are not plagued with dramatic circumstances. Their primary problems with each other consist of opposing dreams, stubbornness and conflicting communication styles. In the film, it takes extreme circumstances for Elijah and Louis to put their differences aside. When tragedy strikes, they are tasked with learning to truly listen to one another and seek understanding.
“Uncorked” also does well in highlighting the presence of people of color in predominantly white spaces. Elijah is a young Black man trying to succeed outside the parameters of expectations set not only by his father but by society at large. There were opportunities for a white savior to step in but director, Prentice Penny, had other plans for the direction of this film. With the overwhelming support of his mother, Sylvia (Niecy Nash), and girlfriend, Tanya (Sasha Compère), Elijah challenges himself to master his craft in spite of any disadvantages that present themselves.
Elijah’s inability to commit to previous endeavors makes his father weary this is just another phase. His determination to follow through with becoming a master sommelier is indirectly fueled by his father’s doubt. When Louis realizes how serious Elijah is, the fear of the family business coming to an end begins to set in. The dynamic of their relationship reflects a situation that is very real for many of us. Your parents lay out expectations. You don’t want to disappoint them so you try things their way. Finally, you discover your passion but have to face the tough decision of living for yourself or living to please your parents. Elijah and Louis’ relationship resembles the natural process of growing apart from your parents then coming back to them for all the right reasons.
This film is a story of overall Black love. The outstanding cinematography matches the quality of the story and leaves a lasting impression. “Uncorked” is streaming on Netflix and the soundtrack can be found here.