Dre Shaw reluctantly puts his life as a social media rising star on hold to return home for his big brother’s wedding, only to go from family liability to saviour. This is Emmy-nominated writer, director and producer Harold Jackson III’s Million to One.
Opening with a great piece of music reminiscent of 70’s funk, we are led to believe that we are about to watch one kind of movie, when in fact Million To One is an entirely different one than we expected. Instead of a gritty old-school crime picture about black people struggling through life and fighting against a system built to detract them, we are presented with a refreshingly witty and sparkling modern romantic comedy film that involves many young successful black people (who are beautiful, rich, and smart) dealing with simple low stake problems and relationship issues.
In essence, Million To One is the type of romantic comedy fodder Hollywood has been churning out every year for decades, but the key difference here is that the cast is all people of colour. The last film that came to mind that had a similar feel to Million To One was Eddie Murphy’s 1992 film Boomerang, and that being a movie made over 30 years ago tells you just how few and far between black-led romantic comedies are. It may seem churlish to write about race in a film review, but I believe it is fully merited, mainly because it’s the strength of the diverse cast we are introduced to during the film’s 75-minute run time that is a major reason for Million To One’s success.
Rob Gordon gives a terrific performance as the lead character Dre Shaw – a smug, narcissistic social media influencer who spends time making videos, looking his best, and charming women into bed. Dre begins the film as an already likeable guy yet also one who is shallow and selfish, but as the film progresses, he begins to show a kinder, gentler, funnier side as he gets closer to his family. In Rob Gordon, we have an actor with great comedic timing who is able to sell this change really well. Gordon has the ability to go for little laughs as well as big ones, managing to build a realistic character at the same time. Gordon is surrounded by a cast of talented actors with Michael J Patterson the stand out as Dre’s brother Isaac showing some raw emotion, and Briana Cortesianoso as Tatiana is so warm and charming that you just want to cuddle her.
The cinematography by Decarlo Gerard is a mix of bright and colourful scenes, with more subdued, intimate moments; his use of colour also helps to create a sense of glamour and excitement, which is appropriate for a film about a group of young, successful professionals. Jackson’s use of lighting and camerawork while directing creates a sense of style and energy that reflects the film’s modern setting. Another of the film’s strengths is in its writing which balances the comedic and dramatic elements really well. The humour is never forced or over the top, as it just arrives in moments of seemingly natural banter and the dramatic moments are heartfelt and poignant. The film explores themes of love, family, and loss, and does so in a way that is relatable and accessible to everyone.
Overall, Million to One is a charming and heart-warming film that is a testament to the power of love and family; a reminder that sometimes the things we think are holding us back are actually the things that are pushing us forward. Harold Jackson III and his cinematographer have created a nice-looking film that contains some strong performances and a genuinely modern touch. Million To One leaves its audience with a positive and uplifting message that should appeal to a broad range of people.