In his second feature film, A New Life, Director Choice Skinner delves into the inner workings of the black male psyche. The film follows the story of Ron (played by Chris Rouse), a widower struggling to raise his daughter alone after the sudden loss of his wife. In his quest to provide the best life for his daughter, Ron experiences triumphs and challenges.
Skinner begins his film by introducing us to Ron and his wife, Stephanie, at a medical appointment. Early on, we see Ron is good with kids as he has a witty conversation with a little. Skinner then elegantly shows a baby in the womb, which sets the film's tone. One of the film's most vital attributes is its ability to highlight the harsh realities of the dating scene in 2023.
During the film's second act, Ron goes on a date with a curvaceous colleague. While I initially expected an office romance storyline, a series of comical mishaps prevent it. I commend the director for making a different narrative choice in having Ron meet his future love interest.
In our lead role, Rouse taps into the challenges of raising a child with authenticity and sincerity alone. Instead of turning the film into a huge emotional rollercoaster of what Ron is enduring, Skinner allows his lead actor's arc to flourish naturally as we watch his transformation into a better man. Skinner also makes the wise choice to downplay the scenes for the young lady portraying Ron's daughter and instead focus on his journey.
The supporting cast also deserves commendation for their performances, notably Joan as Ron's mother-in-law, who provides guidance and support throughout his journey. Daniel Joo and Danny Royce provide comedic relief as Ron's best friend Trevor and brother Rick, showcasing the importance of friendship in times of hardship.
The film's pacing is well-executed, allowing enough time for meaningful character development without dragging the narrative. The screenplay addresses sensitive topics such as grief, single parenthood, and returning to dating after losing your soulmate. Skinner doesn't shy away from exploring this touchy subject's complexities and handles it organically.
A New Life is an honest film that should resonate with audiences, especially those who have experienced the complexities of parenthood or losing a spouse. Chris Rouse effectively showcases leading man chops by delivering a sincere performance, and Skinner avoids stereotypes for the sake of a laugh or forced emotions. Kudos to Skinner for featuring an unreleased song written by the late Kenny Greene over the closing credits.
Final Grade: B
A New Life is available to stream tomorrow.