Zoe Kravitz stars in coming-of-age drama

Zoe Kravitz
photo: Los Angeles Wave

(NNPA)–Yelling to the Sky, a harrowing coming-of-age drama that built a critical following on last year’s festival circuit and is getting a limited release theatrically and on video on-demand, may not recreate Precious Oscar triumph, but has the same pedigree.

Like its predecessor, it has a first-time director at the helm, Victoria Mahoney, who also wrote the script. Also like Precious, it features breakout star performances and chronicles the horrendous emotional and physical abuse of a central female teenager, who ultimately finds a light in the darkness of her New York existence.

They both even feature actress Gabourey Sidibe, who was Oscar-nominated for her role as the abused teen in Precious, but here plays Latonya, a bully dishing out the violence.

Meanwhile, in Sky, Zoe Kravitz, plays Sweetness O’Hara, the 17-year-old bi-racial girl living in a poverty-stricken Black neighborhood.

From its shocking opening (when Sweetness and a bi-racial friend have to navigate cruel taunts of being ‘high yella’ and are attacked by Latonya and her streetwise cohorts), audiences are in for an uncomfortable ride.

As it turns out Sweetness’ life is a constant rollercoaster: her father Gordon (Jason Clarke) is a White, former sailor of Scottish heritage with a hair-trigger temper and a drinking problem. His wife, Lorene (Yolanda Ross), bears the scars of an abused wife, and Sweetness’ older sister Ola (Antonique), though protective, may have transferred similar patriarchal violence onto her sister. She is also pregnant and looking to escape the toxicity of the family home.

Whereas Sidibe’s Precious was barely literate and pursues a dream to be able to read, Sweetness is bright and poetic, but more focused on immediate survival. She gets her chance to turn the tables when she convinces Roland (Tariq Trotter), the neighborhood drug dealer who looks out for the O’Hara women, to cut her in on some product.

Pretty soon, she is dealing on the street corner and her former tormentors Fatima (Shareeka Epps) and Jojo (Sonequa Martin) become best friends and help her exact a violent retribution on Latonya.

Kravitz, 24, daughter of rocker Lenny Kravitz and actress Lisa Bonet, certainly deserves the rave notices she has garnered. She is building quite an early résumé, having co-starred as a superhuman teen mutant in X-Men: First Class, and starring opposite Will Smith in After Earth, scheduled for release in 2013.

In addition, Kravitz has modeled for Elle magazine and fronts the New York/Philadelphia-based band Elevator Flight.

And the plaudits here are in no small part to Mahoney’s ability to elicit fine performances across the board, in what Filmmaker magazine called a “powerful, emotionally nuanced debut.”

Zoe Kravitz turns in a fine performance in Yelling at the Sky. Front Row Filmed Entertainment