RATING |

Kalindra (Shanola Hampton) is a dreamer married to Ronnie (Elimu Nelson), a young man whose own hoops dreams are not just deferred but dashed.

By day, Kalindra works as a waitress. She looks forward to evenings performing her poetry on open-mike nights, where in more ways than one she finds her voice. Ronnie, a basketball forward sidelined by an accident, sulkily works evenings at a gas station, wallowing in thoughts of a future that might have been and will never be. They are shifts passing in the night.

Still, when a dreamboat named Curtis (Omari Hardwick) comes on to Kalindra by quoting her own poetry back to her, the estranged wife initially resists his considerable charms.

Charles Murray's South-Central nocturne Things Never Said, the big-screen debut of a veteran screenwriter of the small screen, announces itself as a conventional L.A. love triangle. But because Murray withholds several crucial plot points, his movie is more of an unconventional affair supercharged by the electric performances of Hampton and Hardwick.

Although Murray handles the multiple backstories in a potent montage, for the most part his film doesn't flow as smoothly and emphatically as Kalindra's poetry. Because he segues between dramatic interior scenes and what look like stock exteriors of L.A. freeways by night, his very specific characters appear to inhabit a weirdly generic place.

As a screenwriter, Murray's greatest asset is that his characters are not simply good or bad; they run the gamut of the moral spectrum. Everyone is capable of bad choices and unhealthy compromises, just as everyone is capable of learning to make better choices and healthier decisions.

The result may not be a big movie, but Things Never Said makes a big emotional impact.

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