Add A Thousand and One to Your Watch List

The Stream: A TV movie plot feels like it’s marching towards an inevitable end.

The Big Screen: A great performance by Teyana Taylor.

The Final Bill: An engaging and emotional movie elevated by Teyana Taylor and a very good screenplay.

– Trip Fontaine
Director: A.V. Rockwell
Writers: A.V. Rockwell
Stars: Teyana Taylor, Aaron Kingsley Adetola, Aven Courtney, Josiah Cross, William Catlett,
Genre: Drama
Rating: R for language
Runtime: 1 hour 51 minutes
Production Companies: Focus Features, Sight Unseen Pictures, Hillman Grad, Makeready
Platform: In theaters March 31, 2023
Notable Trailers: Asteroid City, Polite Society

Hey, Streamers! The Grand Jury Prize winner at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival recently opened in theaters. It is called A Thousand and One and stars Teyana Taylor as Inez, a determined mother who kidnaps her son, Terry, from the foster care system in New York. Inez moves Terry with her to Harlem, changes his name, and sets up a life avoiding trouble except for the changes of New York City in the 1990s. Inez and Terry rebuild their relationship and attempt to live a quiet life in order to avoid getting caught. Mother and son hijinks ensue.

A Thousand and One was written and directed by A.V. Rockwell. Rockwell has a really strong point of view as it juggles themes like motherhood, family, and even gentrification. It is a remarkable feature film debut from Rockwell, and I understand why it won the Grand Jury Prize. The plot could easily be a relegated to a TV movie, but it is elevated above that by the work of Rockwell. Additionally, Teyana Taylor’s performance is powerful and supported by the really great script. In fact, Taylor has a role that feels tailor-made for her. She is very good at projecting the fierce loyalty and protectiveness of her character, Inez. She has surprisingly emotional scenes especially with the young actors that play Terry. Taylor is incredibly compelling throughout.

I guess the only pitfall of the movie is that plot machinations tend to get in the way of the compelling character drama, which veer more into that TV movie territory. At a certain point, things start to occur that feel inevitable but not necessarily organic to the story. Nevertheless, it always remains engaging and emotional.

As a side note: Teyana Taylor and Josiah Cross, who plays Terry at 17, could be the same age. That felt weird to me.

S2S: Official Rating Scale

Ultimately, A Thousand and One is an impactful and emotionally engaging movie. It has a strong central performance by Teyana Taylor. A.V. Rockwell has done a great job writing and directing this movie. I can’t say it’s a must-see on the big screen, but if it is in your area, you should definitely check it out at a matinee with a bowl of popcorn.