(HBO MAX/VOD) First things first: it leaves HBO MAX at the end of the month (March 2021) so, watch it while you can!

LOVE & BASKETBALL, written and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (THE OLD GUARD, BEYOND THE LIGHTS) is just perfect. Absolutely perfect. The opening scene, introducing us to young tomboy Monica and her future life-long love/combatant Quincy is perfect, even down to Monica sustaining a scar due to a heated game. The following scene, where Quincy is reprimanded by his parents not for saying ‘shit’, but for saying ‘can’t’ is perfect. The fact that Monica owns her scar, and the film never portrays her as an ugly monster, is perfect.

This is a film where the script is so lovingly overworked — overworked in the way that you know the author was like ‘I have one shot. I’m going to cram everything I want to say into this.’ — that you can’t help but laugh when it becomes a bit too predictable, such as a scene where Monica is taken out to a local dance with a college student. Her suitor asks: “Can I take your coat?” and she responds, straight-faced: “Oh, you’re cold?” And it still works!

I’d love to discuss the film in full, but if I did so we’d be here for days so, I’ll simply say: this is one of the best romantic dramas simply because Monica and Quincy start off with a mutual respect for each others’ talents, and that is a goddamn rare thing in fictional romances. They see each other as equals, and butt heads as equals. Even when they’re falling out of each other’s orbits, they still respect each other and are life-long friends. You simply don’t see that in modern romantic films.

The penultimate scene is astounding. “Double or nothing.”

Again, going to point you towards Caroline Siede’s notes about the film.

Trailer (although it’s kind of awful):