Medicine For Melancholy


Medicine for Melancholy In the aftermath of a party, two 20-something San Franciscans wake up in bed together with no recollection of how they got there. They exchange names at a Noe Valley coffee shop and share a cab in cold silence. She leaves her wallet behind. He hunts her down online to return it. From there, they begin a convincing dance of seduction infused with excitement, disclosure, and tenderness. Micah (Wyatt Cinach) is immature, self-effacing, and strong, while Jo (Tracey Heggins) is confident, grown-up, and intense. What they learn about each other — and what the film reveals — is on par with any postmodern romance.
Writer-director Barry Jenkins has created complex characters trying to negotiate simple feelings in a difficult world; in mixing black and white with color to explore the relationship between setting and dialogue, director of photography James Laxton captures the sublime and gritty sides of San Francisco. Medicine for Melancholy is important because it spotlights the most overlooked aspect of SF's changing face: black people, and the lack thereof. Micah and Jo are black and their race plays into the affair in surprising and subtle ways. Jenkins has said that Medicine for Melancholy is "a simple, straightforward film that illuminates the modern complexities of living as a declining minority in America's major cities." At the time Medicine for Melancholy was filmed, SF's black population was 7 percent and dropping. As one of the remaining black people in SF, I know that black flight is a reality here. The self-evident gentrification and anti-black sentiment of the city play heavily into the dynamic of this movie's couple. "Why is everything that is 'indie' mean 'not black?'" Micah asks at one point. Conversations like these have been going on among my dwindling number in San Francisco for too long. Until now, only we have heard them. Tell people about Medicine for Melancholy. In the face of an impending cultural extinction and the potential loss of SF's soul, this excellent movie is part of a necessary discussion. (1:27) Embarcadero, Shattuck. (D. Scot Miller for SFBG)