Our Song

Director/Writer:Jim McKay
IFC Films; R; 95 minutes
Cast:Melissa Martinez, Anna Simpson, Kerry Washington

Despite its inauspicious title, Our Song is a compelling and original new work. The opening credits lilst not just to the director and actresses, but also the entire cast and crew, subtly suggesting that a group effort is needed to portray a slice of life as believable as this one.

Our Song fits the rough template of director Jim McKay's first, forgettable film, Girls Town. But nothing feels contrived about this tale of Brooklyn high school girls. Maria, Lanisha, and Joycelyn (Melissa Martinez, Kerry Washington, Anna Simpson) are growing up in Crown Heights' housing projects. The scenario's already loaded—representations of poor urban kids nearly always get filtered by sentimentality, melodrama, triumphalism, or other ways of skirting the reality of things. But Our Song gets it right and is among the best films about teens.

Much must be said for the actresses. Professionally trained, this is the first film for all three, and their performances are outstanding. Maria's unexpected pregnancy is a major dramatic crux, but one of the film's accomplishments is the evenhanded way in which it captures each girl's life with importance. Our Song achieves a realness that most films (and hip-hoppers, for that matter) only dream about.