Grace (Jordan Rayanna Wells) asks her sister what “repent” means and we already know what she will have to do. Set in the rural south of the 1950’s we meet our titular character as she celebrates her 16th birthday. The scene is playful, and joyous even, considering the time and place. partygoer and best friend Louise (Alexis Cofield) playfully lures Grace up to a room in the spacious home and the two share a kiss. We can see the writing on the wall.
Sister (Mikayla LaShae Bartholomew) interrupts the moment and subtly signals her awareness without making a scene. Big Mama (CL Simpson) is looking for Grace and we move on. It seems that Grace is to be baptized a second time, fully cementing her devotion to God. Guided by Big Mama, the baptism day fast approaches. What will Grace do? She is fully aware that her connection with Louise isn’t exactly accepted. Grace must navigate the nebulous tug of war between expectation and mysteries from within.
Writer-director Natalie Jasmine Harris paints a compassionate portrait of sincere people doing what they believe is the best. There are no overt moments of condemnation or browbeating. Instead, the messages linger in the quiet moments. Grace and Louise share a real connection. This is depicted in an innocent moment of vulnerability. Simpson’s matriarchal Big Mama need not even raise her voice when Grace questions the practice of baptism, much less what is implied by a family that is all too aware.
Really what is the best path between what we are taught to be true and what we feel to be true? That is the question Grace explores and sadly, there is no clear answer. What we are left with is a sumptuously shot short film that captures a time, a place, and the painful moments that stain our memory with regret.
Review – 7 Out of 10