Medicine for Melancholy (2008) - Rotten Tomatoes

Medicine for Melancholy (2008)



Critic Consensus: Blessed with clever dialogue and poignant observations of class and race, Medicine For Melancholy is a promising debut for director Barry Jenkins.

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Movie Info

Fate (and alcohol) brings two people together in this independent romantic comedy-drama. Joanne (Tracey Heggins) and Micah (Wyatt Cenac) wake up together one morning after a drunken one-night stand, the result of attending a late-night party at the home of a mutual friend. It becomes clear they don't know each other very well and after sharing breakfast, Joanne isn't interested in getting to know Micah any better. However, when Micah discovers that Joanne has misplaced her wallet, he stops by her apartment to return it, and they end up spending the day together. Joanne and Micah don't appear to have much in common; she's well-to-do and lives in San Francisco's pricey Marina District, while he has a flat in the rough-and-tumble Tenderloin and works with a group of activists struggling to make housing affordable in the city by the bay. As the day wears on, Joanne and Micah become increasingly aware of a genuine mutual attraction, but they also realize just how different they really are. The first feature film from writer and director Barry Jenkins, Medicine for Melancholy received its premiere at the 2008 San Francisco International Film Festival. ~ Mark Deming, Rovimore
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Romance, Comedy
Directed By:
Written By: Barry Jenkins
In Theaters:
On DVD: Sep 9, 2008
IFC Films - Official Site


Melissa Bisagni
as Cassandra
Elizabeth Acker
as Housing Rights Commi...
Erin Klenow
as Museum Staff Member
Powell DeGrange
as Housing Rights Commi...
Chida Emeka
as Housing Rights Commi...
John Friedberg
as Housing Rights Commi...
Dana Julius
as Housing Rights Commi...
Phoebe Chi Ching Kwo...
as Housing Rights Commi...
Tommi Avicolli Mecca
as Housing Rights Commi...
Adam Moskowitz
as Housing Rights Commi...
Jennifer Sanchez
as Housing Rights Commi...
DeMorge Brown
as MOAD Voice
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Medicine for Melancholy

Critic Reviews for Medicine for Melancholy

All Critics (36) | Top Critics (16)

The actors are effortlessly engaging.

Full Review… | April 10, 2009
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Writer-director Barry Jenkins demonstrates a rare ability to communicate a state of mind through images.

Full Review… | March 6, 2009
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

It's an unassuming little piffle that wafts away while you're watching it.

Full Review… | February 24, 2009
Christian Science Monitor
Top Critic

Medicine for Melancholy reminds that much is possible with little.

Full Review… | February 20, 2009
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

A hazy, nuanced and remarkably assured debut from filmmaker Barry Jenkins.

Full Review… | February 19, 2009
Seattle Times
Top Critic

Smart, funny, and visually gorgeous, with the intimacy of a relationship drama and the resonance of a city portrait.

Full Review… | February 2, 2009
New York Magazine/Vulture
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Medicine for Melancholy


Medicine for this film... a good dose less of self importance and reliance on the indy feel would be what this doctor orders.

The premise is wonderful and the beginning holds much promise - a guy is washing his teeth with his finger while the camera changes angle to a view of someone who is obviously lying in bed watching him. So much is held within those opening shots - it was obviously the aftermath of a party, and you soon find out that this couple coupled for a one night stand. What follows could have been a tight little film about people who are drawn to each other and, in the case of the woman, trying to avoid that attraction (as she is already in a comfy relationship with someone else).

The nice black and white feel of the film works well, and some of the imaginative camera angles and interesting shots of SF help to keep a keen focus, but then the film wanders away into obvious set scenes that allow the filmmaker to get up on his soapbox. It is ok to say what you feel, but in this case it sabotages the film, especially when some of the sentiments spouted are just plain wrong.

Having spent a good portion of my life in and around SF, I can tell you that the contention that the only interratial coupling is between black woman and white men is patently false - SF runs the gammut, blacks with latinos, blacks with orientals, orientals with latinos, you name it.

I also found it confounding that this film confused some of its geography. There is no easy way you can bicycle from the marina district to the tenderloin. You see all those wonderful hills that were filmed in the opening part of the film - those suckers are between the marina and the tenderloin - you either go over them (see how steep they are - not very practical) or go around them (which makes for a lovely five plus mile ride through streets that are clogged with car traffic).

But that aside (and I'm going to ignore the hideous attempt to throw in the little discussion about the gentrification of the city, which was truly lame and should have been left on the cutting room floor), the film certainly had its moments, in spite of an uneven pacing (its slow pace coming almost to a dead stop in the scenes inside the bar - what was that trying to prove???). I can understand the plot line of the man trying to get the woman to embrace her race, but I disliked portraying her as racially insensative instead of, perhaps, enlightened. She had decided to get on with her life and not dwell on reparations; something that was apparant to me, but I'm guessing not what the filmmaker intended as he preferred to portray her as shallow and taking the easy road (see, I'm putting my sociologic views into this review, just as the filmmaker did with his film).

However, I must say that the final morning after scene was beautiful: the camera looking out the apartment window to a bodega across the street, then panning back to the man asleep on the couch - then moving to the empty bed and back around to the window - full 360, and then downward where you can see the woman on her bicycle, heading back to the safety of her upper class marina and out of the man's life. This was a powerful scene, but not perhaps for the reason that the filmmaker intended.

paul sandberg

Super Reviewer

[font=Century Gothic]"Medicine for Melancholy" starts on a Sunday morning following a very wild party in San Francisco. So wild, that a man(Wyatt Cenac) and a woman(Tracey Heggins) had a one night stand and spent the night there. He is attracted to her while she is considering it a mistake. That having been said, she agrees to go with him to a coffee shop where they introduce each other as Micah and Angela. After a cab ride home, she accidentally leaves her wallet behind. But her name is not Angela. It is Joanne.[/font]
[font=Century Gothic][/font]
[font=Century Gothic]"Medicine for Melancholy" is a thought provoking little number shot in muted tones, except for the very ending. As such, the movie serves as an intelligent examination of identity politics and how it applies to the personal, not only of the individual but also of the city as a whole, providing a unique look at San Francisco and its gentrification as shown masterfully in a political meeting. And Micah's tiny apartment takes on additional significance as it symbolizes a segment of the population being pushed out of the city.[/font]

Walter M.

Super Reviewer

A relatively quiet, slow-paced movie about two strangers spending a day together in gorgeous San Francisco after having a one-night stand. The movie is about meaningful conversation, personal identity, leisurely strolls and bike rides. Very "little" actually happens in the film -- other than a little bit of sex and a lot of talking -- and so this would appeal to very few people. This was the unknown movie I got sent this week from Netflix and I was able to watch it; but that doesn't mean I will be recommending it to any of my friends either. It takes some patience to get through it and some of the acting feels a little staged and rehearsed (not polished, I should say ... I could tell when "action" was yelled behind the camera). Saying that, I believe the male lead, Wyatt Cenac, is a promising actor and could one day find himself in a larger-budget film. The movie is filmed in black and white ... which is most interesting because Cenac's character views the world in black and white -- and not the colors, but the "black" and "white" of race. Everything to him boils down to race. When he asks someone else to impossibly describe themselves using ONLY one word, he says it is an easy task because his one word for himself is black. He has problems with his one-night stand because she is living with and dating a man of a different race -- although she doesn't see it since she views all as human beings. Do we still need to cling to race or are we moving past that? What makes us who we are? I think these were questions she had already answered for herself but his argument and concern over her way of life makes her re-access herself and also examine him. There is a lot of thought here in this fest-winning film and only at the end of the movie do we get a true glimpse of color with a shot of a beautiful bunch of colorful flowers found on a city balcony. What brings about this shot of color? Revealing that would be giving away the film and I don't do that. It is a thoughtful film that I liked (not necessarily enjoyed) ... but it isn't one that many would.

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