A young woman must do what it takes to overcome the odds and live her dream in this drama featuring Danny Glover in a pivotal role.
Kalani is a high school senior who has one goal in life and that is to make it to Yale University so she can prove herself to go on to bigger and better things, which is more than what she is currently dealing with. As the daughter of a struggling single mother, she is stuck with the responsibility of taking care of her brother Jacob and sister Bebe. However, when Jacob doesn’t return home one night and Bebe has been caught losing her virginity, Kalani gets the brunt of the screaming from her mother. However, it is not the worst as things slowly unravel.
Jacob is working with a local drug dealer and when his mother finds the drugs in his room, she flushes them down the toilet, possibly risking him and the entire family of being killed. Bebe learns that she has become pregnant by Maleek, a local hoodlum. When Maleek finds out, he tells her to have an abortion and stay out of his life. Kalani does find solace in a young man after she herself breaks up with boyfriend Kirk for going too fast with her. However, despite all the trouble she endures, Kalani is determined to make her dream come true and will do whatever it takes to make it happen.
There tends to be something special when it comes to the urban drama, especially when it comes to its protagonist. On some occasions, the protagonist gets their happy ending and at other times, just when the protagonist is about to get their happy ending, a twist of fate shows otherwise. That’s always a thing when it comes to those type of films. You never know how it will end and perhaps that’s a good thing because it leaves you guessing and thus, makes you engaged in the film.
As for this film, writers Sha-Risse Smith and Piper Dellums crafted a script that definitely invokes clues to keep one guessing the fate of our protagonist Kalani. And with Robert Rippberger’s direction, it brings a sense of realism to the story. As a result, it makes you feel both sympathy and empathy for the character, wonderfully played by Joi Starr. Starr is convincing as a woman with struggles and is determined to do what’s right and despite everyone around her telling her otherwise, she will achieve her dreams. As the focal point of the film, we see Kalani deal with a combination of bullying at school, issues with her family, and relationship issues but we see the steps for a more positive outlook coming as we see her from a somewhat tortured soul to someone who is rising above her problems.
While he has limited screen time in the film, Danny Glover is pivotal in the role of guidance counselor Mr. Rose, who at this stage is the only one who helps Kalani boost up and motivates her to live out her dream. Ricky Flowers Jr. is the stubborn Jacob, who thinks he is helping the family out but he’s only making things worse with his plans. As for Shaylin Becton’s Bebe, one can kind of feel sorry for her but as a teenager, she needs to know better. And to make matters worse, you have to wish one particular supporting character gets his because he is extremely insane and does the unthinkable. While the film has its somber moments, it does keep you rooting for Kalani to live her dream.
Strive is a well-made urban drama that will leave you feeling and rooting for our protagonist. While she may seem to have no allies, she does have one in Danny Glover, who proves himself to be the voice of reason at the most opportune times.
WFG RATING: B+
An Aleitheia Films and Prodigium Pictures production in association with El Ride Productions and Captivated Artist Productions. Director: Robert Rippberger. Producers: Scott Rosenfelt, Robert Rippberger, Ace Salvador, Hiroki Kamada, Tobias Deml, and Piper Dellums. Writers: Sha-Risse Smith and Piper Dellums. Cinematography: Dominick Sivilli. Editing: Gabriel Cullen.
Cast: Joi Starr, Danny Glover, Ricky Flowers Jr., Shaylin Becton, Al-nisa Perry, Brandon McKinnie, Aven Courtney, Alexandra Rosario, Chelsea Lee Williams, Scarlett Sperduto, Cole Taylor.