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Toe to Toe (DVD Review)

8 May, 2010 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Prebook 5/11/10; Street 6/8/10
Box Office $0.02 million
$27.99 DVD
Not rated.
Stars Louisa Krause, Sonequa Martin, Gaius Charles, Ally Walker, Leslie Uggams, Silvestre Rasuk.

High-school-themed coming-of-age films typically involve lots of hormonal angst, sexual innuendo and a socially hip soundtrack. Independent movie Toe to Toe goes one step further: It offers a compelling story without a Hollywood ending.

Tosha (Sonequa Martin) and Jesse (Louisa Krause) are polar opposites in terms of personality, drive and socio-economic neighborhoods.

Tosha comes from Anacostia, one of the poorer neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., while Jesse hails from the ritzy suburbs. Both play lacrosse at a private prep school, but for different reasons. Tosha plays because “no black girls do,” and she eyes the sport as an extracurricular selling point to gain acceptance into Princeton.

Despite a rough and tumble home life, Tosha appears the embodiment of strength and organization — much to her chagrin.

Jesse, who is raised by a largely absent and indifferent single mom (Ally Walker), wants little except love and acceptance. She finds the latter as a promiscuous rebel.

While both girls appear to form a friendship on the field, feelings for the same boy — a Muslim wannabe rapper (Silvestre Rasuk) — among other issues, make Tosha more vetted in her studies, while leading Jesse to overcompensate sexually at “go-go” parties — a local mixture of rap, alcohol and drugs.

These clichéd and stereotypical “career” paths are unlike what they seem.

From director Emily Abt, whose credits include a documentary about African-American women with HIV, Toe to Toe presents a stark and moving story featuring outstanding performances from newcomers Krause and Martin, in addition to veteran Leslie Uggams as the latter’s sage grandmother.

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