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First Look Review - THE OUTSIDE STORY

the outside story review
After accidentally locking himself out of his building, an introverted editor is forced to confront the world he's been avoiding in search of a way back inside.

Review by Musanna Ahmed

Directed by: Casimir Nozkowski

Starring: Brian Tyree Henry, Sonequa Martin-Green, Sunita Mani, Asia Kate Dillon, Olivia Edward, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Maria Dizzia

the outside story poster

Though it was made in the Before Times, The Outside Story is essentially a COVID-19 movie flipped on its head. Where the quarantine has generated tales about creating virtual spaces to connect with one another (Host, Coastal Elites) or simply spending a vast amount of time cohabiting with those in our limited vicinity (Recovery, Locked Down), here is a story in which the protagonist has the freedom to avoid all physical contact while life goes on as normal. Until he has no choice.

the outside story review

Charles Young (Brian Tyree Henry) is a video editor who wants to live in solitude after breaking up with his girlfriend Isha (Sonequa Martin-Green). His job can afford him to stay indoors anyway, and he only needs to take one look outside the window to see a busy community that would only disrupt his self-isolation. A food delivery utility provides him with the basic hierarchy of needs but, one time, the driver sadly walks off without a tip, noting to Charles that Isha was generous compared to him.


Tripped by guilt, Charles runs out of the apartment to hand him loose change and show appreciation for his service. On the way back, though, he realises he has locked himself out of the apartment, thus ensuing a long day in which he’ll get to know the people of his neighbourhood. From talking to the local police officer Slater (Sunita Mani) to a nine-month pregnant woman named Paige (Hannah Bos) to his hard-nosed neighbour Juliet (Maria Dizzia) and her exuberant daughter Elena (Olivia Edward), Charles understands that he isn’t the only one trying to navigate difficult emotions. Naturally - obviously - it’s a message film that instructs us to not keep our feelings literally locked inside.

the outside story review

And though the moral may be hammered into our head, it’s alright because the hammer has a soft touch. It feels nice to be in the company of these gentle characters, played by lovely actors led by the great Atlanta star. Part of its charm also lies in the fact that Charles’ long afternoon entails a series of events that are grounded and relatable, almost feeling like a lived-in experience. We’ve all had one of these sorta days, finding serendipitous connections that help us make the best out of an unfortunate episode.

the outside story review

At this point, one year removed from the outset of the pandemic, it is boring and predictable to  merely label a lightweight, feel-good film as the sort of film we need right now. Particularly when it’s a film that exports a diverse, liberal, happy-go-lucky image of America at a time when that is simply not the case. But the coincidence of The Outside Story being an inverted timeline of our actual events gives me confidence to recommend it for this reason – it is absolutely a pleasant way to pass the time, finding unexpected humour in its parallels to the state of the world in the last year. Appealing performances from a medley of underappreciated talent bolster its appeal.

The Outside Story is on US VOD/Digital from April 30th. A UK/ROI release has yet to be announced.



2021 movie reviews