Romance movies are making a comeback. It’s one of our favorite film genres because who doesn’t love to watch people fall in love on screen?
As a woman of color, growing up it was very difficult to find a romance that had people who looked like me. I grew up watching a lot of romance films featuring white faces. Of course, there was nothing wrong with that at all and sure, I loved them all and still do, but the characters were not a representation of me. When a Black person was in a romance film, they were basically the stereotypical cheerleader to their white friends. And they most certainly were not viewed as sexy or the love interest.
The Netflix film Really Love, gives me the representation I really needed and wanted to see.
What it’s about
Set in a gentrifying Washington DC, a rising Afro-descendant painter tries to break into a competitive art world, while balancing a whirlwind romance he never expected.
Really Love is a subtle, quiet romance film. The main characters Isaiah and Stevie don’t spend a lot of time talking but when they do, it’s always deep and meaningful.
When the two of them meet, they are instantly drawn to one another and their mutual love of art connects them. Both are also equally driven by their dreams. Stevie is going to Georgetown Law, while Isaiah is struggling to get the recognition he seeks in the art world.
What works so well about Really Love is that it’s an honest look at the ups and downs of falling in love. Isaiah and Stevie are discovering each other, while still trying to come into their own. Isaiah is working day and night to produce art to reach his goal of having a solo show. Stevie has dreams of working for a prestigious law firm to help under-served Black and Latino communities. At the start, Stevie is focused on her dreams, but then begins to lose herself when she shifts her attention to help Isaiah make his happen.
As their careers progress, their relationship begins to suffer. Once Isaiah succeeds in getting a solo show, he gets busy and has less time for Stevie, even though she has been so willing to put her dreams on the back burner for him.
It made me mad because Isaiah got to pursue his dreams, while Stevie got left behind. It wasn’t fair. She was supportive of him every step of the way, and I agreed with her mom saying that she shouldn’t put anyone first who wouldn’t do the same for her. When she’s offered her dream job in Chicago with one of the best law firms, she goes to Isaiah for his advice.
I knew exactly why she went to Isaiah with this news. She really wanted him to ask her to stay. She was so in love with him, had done so much for him because of it, and couldn’t imagine leaving him like that. It was heartbreaking when he felt the opposite and told her that if he was offered a job like that, he would take it.
I know it doesn’t make sense to some people that she was so upset by Isaiah telling her to go when it was her dream job. But Stevie wanted Isaiah to show that he cared. Him not asking her to stay felt like a rejection. She was willing to give up her dream for him, and he couldn’t see it or appreciate it.
While I was upset with the situation between Stevie and Isaiah, I also felt for Isaiah and his struggles. His father had high expectations of him and didn’t think his art was anything more than a hobby. On top of that, Isaiah had to deal with not only being a struggling artist, but also a struggling Black artist.
This meant it was extra hard for him to succeed in the art world, and it didn’t help when he ran into a former white classmate who was highly successful. When Isaiah’s closest friend and inspiration, Yusef, told him to succeed in a world full of white artists, and that he couldn’t just be better than them, he had to be a unicorn, I felt it. Black people are told constantly we must work harder than everyone else to be truly recognized. We see it all the time in the film and publishing worlds, so it didn’t surprise me to see it in the art world, too.
Except for Yusef, Isaiah didn’t have a lot of people supporting him and his art until meeting Stevie. She brought out the best in him with her love, and he finally knew he had the ability within him to succeed. It was just sad to me that he didn’t take the time to recognize her contributions along the way. Through their relationship he never once acknowledged that she kept him going, and it was a slap in the face to see him thank someone else at his art show and not her.
I wasn’t surprised they got into a fight over the lack of attention or that Stevie ultimately decided to go to Chicago. I probably would have left too if I was in her shoes. What did surprise me was that they broke up and didn’t see each other for an entire year.
Once they were able to reunite, it was so emotional. It was very clear to me that even after being apart, they were still in love. When they ended up spending the night together, it felt like things were starting over. But when the morning came, reality set in, and Stevie was once again reminded that Isaiah’s career would always come first.
Really Love is just so real. Love is painful, and everything doesn’t just get wrapped up into a pretty bow because we want it to. Personally, I like watching love stories that are unique and not a cliché.
I promise that you will feel invested in these characters, and when the ending comes, you will still want more of them and their story. Like me, I think you’ll be rooting for them from the beginning. I also have no doubt that Kofi Siriboe and Yootha Wong-Loi-Sing, who play Isaiah and Stevie, will pull you in. Their chemistry is magnetic, and they’re both amazing actors.
One of the things that was most important to me while watching Really Love was that the movie was not full of negative stereotypes about Black people. It showcased that Black people have friends, hopes, dreams, and fall in love just like everyone else. It’s not often we see stories like these. This film is just another reminder of what we continue to say: representation matters.
In addition to Kofi Siriboe and Yootha Wong-Loi-Sing, Really Love stars Uzo Aduba, Blair Underwood, Michael Ealy, Naturi Naughton, Tristan Mack Wilds, and the late Suzzanne Douglas.
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Really Love is currently streaming on Netflix.