Listen to the Recess! Clip
In Boaz Yakin’s award-winning film, “Fresh,” we watch with fascination and growing dread as Michael, whose nickname is “Fresh,” the 12-year-old hero of this gritty urban fairy tale, begins to play a dangerous game of deception in which he pits two gangs of drug dealers in his Brooklyn neighborhood against one another. He can move between the gangs because he works as a runner for both, carrying heroine for one in the morning and crack for the other in the afternoon, and its a gambit that he must take up if he is to save his addicted sister, who is the unwilling girlfriend of one of the drug lords.
As you have gathered by now, this is not a movie for children, or even for younger teenagers. And I want to caution you that it has very rough language and several very violent scenes. But it is a deeply serious, truthful film for anyone who is concerned about the burdens that children often carry in their lives, and how they often must carry these weights silently and sometimes find solutions to the these problems virtually on their own.
What empowers Fresh, who is played with stunning emotional range by Sean Nelson, are the mental skills he has learned from chess, a game taught to him by his brilliant, alcoholic, absentee father, played by Samuel L. Jackson, who still hustles speed chess for money in Washington Square Park, where Fresh meets him at key moments in the movie. The strategies, the subterfuges, the calculations of chess give Fresh the only weapon that he has for coping with the gangs that terrorize him, his family, friends and neighborhood. This is a classic fairy tale predicament, in which the little hero must find a way to outwit the ogres and giants that threaten to devour him. It’s an unforgettable, courageous movie, a small masterpiece about how difficult it is for kids to struggle and survive, especially those children who have fallen between the cracks into a world of indifference and exploitation that consumes most of the children who land in it. This movie will make you break out in cheers, and it will also break your heart.