It’s a stroke of genuine artistry to craft a movie in a raw and glancing documentary style that is not merely ”authentic” but dramatic. In Jim McKay’s startling second feature, Our Song (his first was the overly didactic ”Girls Town”), there’s nothing to hold the audience apart from the pinpoint dance of the characters’ faces and words. The movie draws us into the illusion that we’re simply eavesdropping on the lives of three inner-city black and Hispanic girls, all around 15 (they’re played by an extraordinary trio of newcomers, Kerry Washington, Melissa Martinez, and Anna Simpson), as they meander through the steamy late summer days in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
Their conversational style, which could be the urban-desperate version of Valley Girl patois, is a halting mélange of dis, mock dis, confession, romantic yearning, and grim survivalist rebuke. Just about every exchange is refracted through a daze of consumerist media think, yet for all their out of the cradle cynicism, these girls are too young to hide their feelings, and McKay observes them with an objective intimacy that’s like a form of grace.
Events that might have been milked for melodrama (a pregnancy, a school closure) are wound into the texture of the everyday, right along with shoplifting, making out, or playing with the local funk soul marching band, the Jackie Robinson Steppers (appearing as themselves). ”Our Song” evokes the freedom, as well as the casual devastation, of those who have grown up expecting nothing from life but the next moment. By the end, we understand in our bones how a righteous, impoverished teenager could come to believe that having a baby would bring her redemption.