With his debut feature "Restless City," director Andrew Dosunmu conjures the heady vibe of a pulsing, multilingual place where cultures don't so much clash or collide as exist on their own.
Set amid a West African community in New York City, the film explores this world unto itself as Senegalese immigrant Djibril (Sy Alassane) hustles CDs and assorted goods on the street, though he really wants to be a singer. As he tentatively moves from the fringes to a life more stable, he meets Trini (Sky Nicole Grey), who is also figuring out her next moves.
The cinematography by Bradford Young, who also shot the recent"Pariah,"creates a vibrant, burnished look, and the costumes by Mobolaji Dawodu are all super-cool, if maybe a little too much so — with so many serious scarves and hats, the characters at times feel more like mannequins than people. (Alassane and Grey both also have a background in modeling and sometimes appear to be posing rather than acting.)
Dosunmu's reliance on slow-motion shots of Djibril riding through the city on his scooter feel straight out of a music video and don't help the off-rhythm pacing, which repeatedly turns stately when it feels like it should bustle. In its portrait of a "Restless City" the film is strangely inert and feels like the work of image-makers, not storytellers.
"Restless City." MPAA rating: R for some drug use and brief sexuality. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes. At Laemmle's Monica 4-Plex, Santa Monica.