Picture of Derrick Dunn

Derrick Dunn

Sundance Review : Emergency

Carey Williams follows up his directorial debut R#J with another love story in Emergency. Straight-A college student Kunle (Donald Elise Watkins) and his laid-back best friend, Sean (RJ Cyler), are about to have the most epic night of their lives. Determined to be the first Black students to complete their school’s frat party legendary tour, the friends strap in for their ultimate assignment, Solo cups in hand. However, a quick pit stop at home alters their plans when they find a white girl they dub Goldilocks (Maddie Thompson) passed out on the living room floor. Faced with the risks of calling the police under life-threatening optics, Kunle, Sean, and their Latino roommate, Carlos (Sebastian Chacon), must find a way to de-escalate the situation before it’s too late.


Director Carey Williams reunites with screenwriter KD Davila to follow their collaboration on the 2018 short Emergency, which serves as the basis for this film. Given Davila’s script’s templates for Kunle and Sean, one would think the movie will combine Superbad and Weekend at Bernie’s and add some soul. Instead, the film goes a different route that I commend the directors for. The film opens up innocently enough, introducing us to our characters and painting tropes viewers will immediately recognize.


Racial, social commentary is afoot in Emergency, and the layers slowly peel away to reveal a film that will inspire much dialogue. One of the things I enjoyed about the film is the different approaches to the arcs for Kunle and Sean. The former is the more serious one from a Silver Spoonish upbringing, while the latter is more of a free spirit. On the surface, Sean may have immature qualities but has more life experience than his friend has.


Donald Elise Watkins and RJ Cyler have honest chemistry as best friends. In Watkins’s performance of Kunle, I saw a man buying into his parent’s dream for him while trying to hold onto the carefree friendship he has with his best friend. In Sean, you see a man who realizes that his best friend is on a different journey, and eventually, they will drift apart. Both actors have moments to shine and complement each other well as they play off their emotions.


I’ve been a fan of Cyler since his scene-stealing performance in 2017’s Me, Earl & The Dying Girl. Following his turn in last year’s entertaining Western, The Harder They Fall, this film should open up more doors for him. I hadn’t seen any of the previous films of Donald Elise Watkins, which was good, as it allowed me to tap into his character more. The unknown sentiment also carries over to Carlos (Sebastian Chacon) and Goldilocks (Maddie Thompson) as I found myself fully invested in their characters’ arcs.


Throughout the night, the trio runs into a mix of different characters; however, the most notable supporting characters are Emma’s sister Maddie (Sabrina Carpenter), her home girl Alice (Madison Thompson), and Rafael (Diego Abraham), a guy Alice is looking to hook up with. I loved how Williams painted the journeys of Maddie and her trio and how it corresponds with the journey of our heroes. 


Featuring a timely message on perception, friendship, and doing the right thing, Emergency is highly recommended.


Final Grade: B+


Emergency opens in theaters on May 20th and hits Amazon Prime on May 27th .



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