Writer: Olivia Newman (Screenplay)
Starring: Elvire Emanuelle, Jeanette Branch, Jimmy Gary Jr, Kim Ramirez, Colman Domingo, Jharrel Jerome, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II
Plot: Hardened by years in foster care, a teenage girl from Brooklyn’s Brownsville neighborhood decides that joining the boys wrestling team is the only way back to her estranged father.
Runtime: 1 Hour 42 Minutes
There may be spoilers the rest of the review
Verdict: Power Drama
Story: First Match starts as we see troubled teenager Mo (Emanuelle) getting kicked out of her latest foster home, she turns tricks for money while trying settle in a new foster home waiting for a chance to return home to her recently released from prison father Darrel (Abdul-Mateen II).
Looking to get her life on track Mo joins the high school wrestling team to help with her discipline after her father used to teach before prison. As her skills increase so does the pressure from her father to make money from her to get rich quick, can Mo make the right decisions for her own life at this difficult moment in life.
Thoughts on First Match
Characters – Mo is a troubled teenager, she has been through the foster system making her defensive and aggressive to the world, out of her latest home she does find one that tries to care for her, she doesn’t let people into her life, but high school wrestling gets her focus back on track until her father returns leaving her to decide how to take on her life. Mo is a wonderful character to watch because she is an example to just how difficult the foster system can be in the wrong area. Omari is the oldest friend of Mo’s he has always tried to have her back through the hardship of her life. Darrel is Mo’s father, fresh out of prison and struggling to make ends meet who decides to push his daughter into a life of crime. We do get to see a new foster mother that is willing to look past Mo’s flaws and just care for her, the coach willing to give her a chance and the unlikely friend in the team.
Performances – Elvire Emanuelle is fantastic in this leading role, she gets the emotional decision making correct throughout the film and handles the wrestling well through the film, this is a true breakout performance for the young actress. The cast works well around Elvire with each performer letting her shine in each and every scene.
Story – When it comes to the story, we are given the traditional troubled teenager that learns discipline from a sport, wrestling, we see how they have made mistakes and will continue to make mistakes until they are ready to admit their own problems. It could be argued that we have seen this performer, but it is a tried and tested formula. The story has little glimpses at certain parts of Mo’s life, the most notable one I enjoyed was the foster mother Lucila and just how much she wants to care for any child that comes in her life. The conflict Mo goes through is hard to see because we know the right decision, but family is harder to turn away from.
Settings – The film is set in Brooklyn which is known to be a rougher neighbourhood, which reflects just how the hard life would be for Mo.
Final Thoughts – This is a powerful drama about sport offering discipline to a misguided teenager that needs to get her life sorted before it is too late for her.
Overall: Sports drama that is a must.