By Matt Bearden
Nana’s Boys, written, produced, and directed by Ashton Pina, is a Black gay film many viewers could relate to. It is one of Breaking Glass Production’s LGBT movies and features two long-time partners, played by David J. Cork and Jared Wayne Gladly, in a citywide lockdown in their New York City apartment. The film is limited in cast, setting, scene cuts, and dimensionality; it presents, however, among its limitations, alternative ways to wrestle with life altering conflicts.
Q Nichols (Gladly) attempts to celebrate Amari Lewis’ (Cork) 30th birthday with karaoke, friends, catering, vacation, and proposal. Amari is reluctant for a celebration, struggling to find purpose in his own life, whereas his partner Q aims to be the youngest partner at his law firm. The story shifts when the camera shakes, an explosion is heard, and an emergency broadcast alerts New York City to stay indoors. A utility explosion cuts off New York City, leaving viewers, Amari, and Q perplexed, confused, and scared. In this strange lockdown, these two characters—one navigating through the wanes of day to day experiences, the other overly optimistic, Type A, and caretaker—learn secrets from one another as time ticks by for the city lockdown to be lifted.
“Lockdown” may be triggering for viewers with COVID pandemic trauma or cities facing crises that may issue mandated lockdowns or curfews. It could also signal for an apocalyptic scenario, popular among modern television. Nana’s Boys does not pursue those routes, conscious of the real-world its viewers gather from.
Amari struggles with who he is as he turns 30—an introspective struggle many young viewers (myself included as I approach my 30th) can find themselves facing. He questions returning to dentist school, being a photographer, and how to measure up to Q’s ideal life. Q has it planned out: law partner by 35, married by 40. Here is another quality viewers could relate to if their partner holds a significantly profitable career compared to their own. These few character traits make Amari and Q relatable.
As the secrets Q has withheld comes out through games where they relive memories, their relationship is tested and believability of the story diminishes. Both characters make decisions that will leave viewers in daunting disbelief as Amari and Q circumnavigate these revelations. Despite these choices, there is no violence, brutality, or screaming and shouting. While this may go against instinct—Q lays down bombshell after bombshell, as does Amari in the film’s penultimate scenes—there is a message that can be examined: not all conflict needs aggression. Amari has one moment that demonstrates what it feels like to have the world crumble around you when betraying news is delivered (the finest moment of the whole film, honestly). From there, he continues to interact with Q in grace, friendliness, and possibly forgiveness.
Viewers can find Nana’s Boys on AppleTV, Amazon, and YouTube. Viewers who wish to know more about Ashton Pina and the film’s creation can visit nanasboys.com.