Starring: Common, Michael Rainey, Jr., Meagan Good and Dennis Haysbert
Rated: R Crime, Drama
Set in the urban area of Baltimore, Maryland, LUV is focused on the relationship between an eleven-year old boy, Woody (Michael Rainey, Jr.), and his dapper and charming uncle, Vincent (Common). Vincent, recently been released from having served eight years of a twenty-year prison sentence, is seeking to leave his life of crime behind. He wants to become a legitimate businessman, owning his own restaurant. Woody is being reared by his maternal grandmother, Grandma Beanie (Lonette McKee) because his mother, Beverly (Meagan Good), is in a rehabilitation facility in North Carolina.
One morning, Woody asks Vincent to take him to school. However, he soon notices that conflicts within the youngster’s life, including being without a strong male influence, has rendered his nephew as shy and “uncool”. Vincent decides to skip dropping Woody off to school and instead takes him along with his own activities for the day.
After getting him fitted for and purchasing a new suit for Woody, the pair undertake different activities where Vincent teaches Woody aspects of his definition of manhood. These include learning how to lie, hide illicit items, drive Vincent’s ebony Mercedes Benz and shoot a gun.
As he performs various rounds, Vincent introduces Woody to people from his previous criminal life. These include his former partner and friend, Cofield (Charles S. Dutton); business associate Arthur (Danny Glover); and Mr. Fish (Dennis Haysbert), crime lord and Arthur’s brother. He visits with his former boss to request a loan to start his business after being rejected by his bank loan officer.
However, in exchange for the loan, Mr. Fish demands that Vincent perform one last transaction to demonstrate his loyalty.
Vincent ultimately accepts his previous employer’s request but things quickly and dangerously go awry for him and Woody, who is still with him. As time begins to run out for the uncle and nephew, it becomes even more difficult to discern who is friend or foe. Never has Vincent’s familial sentiment of “We’re all we got” rang more true …
Will LUV reign over all? Viewers surely want to see the resolution!
Written and directed by Sheldon Candis, LUV was filmed in and around Baltimore. It premiered at the Maryland Film Festival. The independent film has gained its own substantial following despite commentary from film essayists, including acclaimed film critic Roger Ebert. In “Learning the Wrong Life Lessons” at RogerEbert.com, he likened Vincent’s relationship with Woody to Charles Dickens’ Fagin and Oliver Twist. In his review, Ebert shared, “Here is a film about African Americans that sidesteps all the usual, hopeful clichés and comments on how one failed generation raises another. This is how the gun and crime culture is passed along. This is how a nice kid in middle school has his life destroyed for him – unless he is very lucky and learns a lesson from these 24 hours in a nightmare.”
Receiving praise, LUV received several nominations for awards. Sheldon Candis and co-writer Justin Wilson were nominated for the Humanitas Prize in 2012. Candis was nominated for “Grand Prize” at the Skip City International D-Cinema Festival in 2013. Also that year, Common was nominated for “Best Actor” BET Award.
An “Official Selection” at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, LUV was also nominated for its prestigious Grand Jury Prize.
For LUV, Sheldon Candis won the “Best Independent Film” Black Reel Award in 2013.