Southside with You chronicles the future President of the United States Barack Obama’s (Parker Sawyers) first date with his future First Lady Michelle (Tika Sumpter) across Chicago’s Southside in the summer of 1989.
Richard Tanne directs a beautiful date movie that serves as a sweet love letter to a beautiful city. The film is also written by him and has captivating dialogue that wraps you up in this love story that we have the pleasure of seeing blossom in front of our very eyes.
For a film that really just follows Barack and Michelle on one date, the whole film, it moves at a really fast pace. The reason for that is the writing. The conversations they have are so important to what is going on in their lives, and are a huge part of their flourishing relationship. The charm they share, coupled with the chemistry is enthralling. A movie like this should feel like a drag, that you’re looking at your watch waiting for it to pick up. That never happens. It’s a testament to how well this love story is shaped and presented for just an hour and a half.
The writer/director has a big part in how great this movie is, but Sawyers and Sumpter are absolutely magic together here. They embody Michelle and Barack in every facet. Whether it’s the mannerisms, cadence, and their look in general. Sawyers especially loses himself into the role of our Commander in Chief. When you see him walking on screen you forget you’re watching a movie and that you may actually be seeing the man himself. He delivers a speech in the film about community center funding, and he just nails everything about Barack Obama. It’s hard to walk that line of doing an impression of The President, and actually becoming him, in that scene and throughout the film Sawyers becomes Barack Obama. This is a star making performance. Sumpter brings Michelle’s independence and strong presence to the forefront. She has that energy about her. You can feel that power that she carries in every scene. Off the back of this Sawyers and Sumpter should become huge stars.
I really admire the performance under pressure from writer/director Richard Tanne, Parker Sawyers, and Tika Sumpter. To portray the President and First Lady at any time, at any point in their lives is a daunting task. Both of them lived up to the precedent and exceeded it. This is not only a great look into the first date of two powerful people, it’s a grounded, real love story. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Southside with You and can’t recommend it enough. Whether you’re on the left, right, democrat, or republican, Southside with You is a beautiful love story.