Don’t Let Go Needed to Let Us In
Let's just start by being clear, Joi and Ro are always here for a David Oyelowo film (even if they mess up his last name when recording exhausted) and believe folks need to support Don't Let Go.
Don't Let Go is a psychological police procedural (with a side of the supernatural) about an LAPD Detective Jack Radcliff (David Oyelowo) who finds Ashley (Storm Reid), his favorite niece, and her parents murdered in what appears to be a murder/suicide. After finding their bodies, Jack justifiably falls apart and beings to drink his pain away. But just as he settles into wallow in grief, he receives a phone call from a two-weeks-ago Ashley that sets him a mission to rewrite the timeline and save her if he can.
Writer/Director Jacob Arron Estes builds this time-bending story on a simple premise...maybe too simple. It's clear relatively early on this story doesn't expect to make you work for it. What elevates this from some of the others in this horror sub-genre is David Oyelowo's rock-solid performance as a cop frantic to save a life. So while the ride doesn't take any unpredictable turns there's plenty to interest you staying until it's over. Oyelowo elevates some pretty basic dialogue (clearly not modified to fit) and adds emotion and intensity.
Don't Let Go Could've Been Totally Gripping
Relying on muddy, visuals to support its muted tone does little to enhance the tonal quality of the story but works well as a backdrop to helping audiences to visualize the temporal changes as they occur. Don't Let Go tells a solid story with some interesting thrills and fun-to-figure-out twists and turns. But, the story needs more layers of professional and personal entanglement. The film needs more from Garret Radcliff's POV (Bryan Tyree Henry). Seeing how he'd got himself tangled up matters. Plus, that visual information tied to Ashley's role could've compensated for some of the weakness in this script.
And again, more of the Radcliff family dynamic with Oyelowo at the center might've deepened both the drama and the emotional connection to the characters. Without them, the overall pace tends to drag in places resulting in a, too-long run time.
Never Leave Tools In The Box
The supporting cast lead by Storm Reid's Ashley all step up and bring nuance and angst to otherwise standard characters. Oyelowo and Reid have excellent chemistry. But, under-utilizing great actors like Brian Tyre Henry and Byron Mann stand as seriously missed opportunities. Director Estes leaned heavily on the Bobby character (Mykelit Williamson) to do too much heavy lifting in this plot.
He could've easily capitalized on the animosity between Oyelowo's character and Byron Mann's Detective Lee, to add mystery to the premise.
Had this story provided details and reasons as to why this pair could connect across space and time, the suspense and sci-fi elements it sorely needed, Don't Let Go may well have given Frequency a run for its money. Leaving that aspect unexplained undercut the suspense a bit and left parts of the story sorely underdeveloped. It's not a fatal flaw but it does disappoint.
Don't Let Go is an interesting time-thriller with a workable story (just don't think too hard) with some emotional beats that will pull you in and keep you watching.
Ro and Joi agree this film would've been better served by muddying the waters in their spoiler-free discussion of Don't Let Go. You can read Joi's interview with David Oyelowo in The Hollywood Reporter.
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