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Battered wife’s emotional rollercoaster proves lovin’ two ain’t nothing healthy

Female empowerment flick finds out strength is in poetry, not numbers

KAM WILLIAMS | 9/20/2013, 12:42 p.m.

Miserably-married Kalindra (Shanola Hampton) hasn’t yet found the strength to leave her abusive husband, Ronnie (Elimu Nelson), even though the last time the creep put his hands on her, she ended up in the hospital. Trouble is, it’s hard for her to figure a way out of the situation, given that she’s been struggling just to keep a roof over their heads on a waitress’ salary ever since her hot-headed hubby lost his job at a gas station after breaking a tardy co-worker’s (Yorke Fryer) arm in a fit of rage.

Beleaguered Kalindra copes by crying on the shoulder of her BFF Daphne (Tamala Jones) and by secretly dreaming of moving alone from L.A. to New York where she hopes to make it as a spoken word poet. Meanwhile, she tries to summon up the courage by testing out some of her emotional rhymes down at the local café on open mic night.

Everything changes for Kal the day she meets Curtis Jackson (Omari Hardwick) at a slam. No, he’s not the rapper 50 Cent, but a gifted wordsmith, nonetheless, and willing to take her under his wings, literally and figuratively. Soon, the two are sleeping together, but the hunky Mr. Wonderful has no idea that his gorgeous new girlfriend’s husband has anger management issues.

This recipe for disaster is the ominous point of departure of “Things Never Said,” a poetry-driven drama marking the directorial debut of Midwest native and veteran TV scriptwriter Charles Murray (“Third Watch”), who also wrote the film and most of the poetry in it. Murray brought this film to Cleveland as part of the Greater Cleveland Urban Film Festival at Shaker Square this past April where he urged the audience to “check out the Facebook page and read what people have said about this film. Ten festivals, a best actor, best screenplay, two audience awards and one special jury recognition later… I don’t think this film can be easily written off.”

Unfortunately, between the campy melodrama and cheesy sex scenes, the film unfolds more like a television soap opera than a feature film.

Most problematical, however, is the lousy poetry that’s force fed on us at every turn. For instance, “Roses are red. Violets are blue. Get your ass up. I’m still working on the end.” Equally underwhelming was this variation on “This Little Piggy Went to Market.” “This little piggy’s brokenhearted. This little lady turns to stone. This little lady Cupid darted. This little lady’s alone. This little lady goes ‘Wee! Wee! Wee!’ all the way to the poem.”

To this critic, the staccato-style of poetry performed in this picture is the equivalent of rap sans the music. Consider lines like “I am the wife of a piece of [expletive]” and “My [expletive for genitalia] does taste like chocolate.” So, if you have a strong stomach for crudity, the N-word and lots of cussing, this foul-mouthed flick might be right up your alley.

“‘The Butler’ used the N-word, ‘The Butler’ has cussin’… some people are going to like things and some people aren’t,” said Murray. “I’ve been critiqued on every ounce of my writing throughout my career. You have to have a thick skin. All I know is women who’ve watched this movie told me that they saw their lives on screen. And to me… That’s all that matters.”

“Things Never Said” is an uplifting tale of female empowerment tarnished by its crude method of delivering a positive message.