Simone (Michaela Coel) has devoted her life to her daughter Mandy (Mya Lewis) – sacrificing her social life pretty much entirely for her. Her best friend Yvonne (Ronke Adekoluejo) does drag her out every once in a while though and on one of those nights, Simone meets Raymond (Arinzé Kene). He is charming and they hit it off, but he was also just released from prison and still wears an ankle monitor. Now Raymond has to figure out his life in general and Simone has to decide whether she has space for him in hers.
Been So Long is a musical with an interesting central couple and less interesting music. It was nice while it lasted, but I probably won’t remember it for a long time.
It hasn’t been long that I saw the film but if you asked me, I’d be hard-pressed to hum even a single melody from it. I am doubtful whether I’d recognize the music if somebody played it for me. That usually isn’t a very good sign for a musical, though it may just be a matter of incompatibility as the music is rather R&B-y and that just isn’t really my thing. At least I didn’t hate the music or found that it didn’t fit the film while I was watching it – it’s just that I can’t remember it now. Although I do remember a very sex-positive song about women being horny, so yay for that.
But more important to me was the relationship between Simone and Raymond and that worked very well for me, even if they didn’t bring a lot of new insight into relationships – that isn’t a requirement anyway. The way they approach each other and how they both have to examine their own baggage was very nicely done (also thanks to Coel and Kene’s fantastic chemistry). And thankfully, both always played with open cards. There are no surprise revelations. Relationships are complicated enough without that.
The thing that bothered me the most was the character of Gil (George MacKay), a disheveled young man (addict? mentally ill? both?) who has sworn a vendetta against Raymond because he feels that Raymond took away the love of his life. He seemed to come in from another film, didn’t add anything to the story and was generally such a cliché that I would have preferred it if the film had left him out.
The film does take a nice political stand as well – especial gentrification is an issue here (and its intersection with race), but it’s not the only thing. I always like it when films know that they are saying something about the world and its politics, whether they want to or not – and take the opportunity to say something meaningful.
Altogether, Been So Long is definitely enjoyable, appropriately technicolor for a musical and a lot of fun. I wouldn’t be opposed to watching it again – but I probably wouldn’t think of it when wondering what to watch.