2021 Tribeca Festival: ‘As of Yet’ reflects life’s new challenges on screen
REVIEW: 'As of Yet' is a breezy, slice-of-life film about today’s state of being that, even despite its dull approach, manages to strike a nerve
A film about a young Black woman struggling to navigate the throes of the pandemic can elicit a lot of anxious reactions. Does it follow how she’s coping with the disproportionate number of Black and brown people suffering from COVID-19? Is she sick? Or is it that she’s on the frontlines of the whole other pandemic, white supremacy, which compelled countless Black people to risk their lives outside in the middle of a plague to advocate for their own humanity?
Directors Taylor Garron and Chanel James’ extremely relatable comedy, As of Yet, doesn’t focus on any of those things. Rather, Garron, who also wrote the screenplay, turns the camera on herself as Naomi, a Brooklynite desperately trying to manage her neglected libido in quarantine, her white best friend and roommate Sara’s (Eva Victor) tone deafness and her own wokeness—with varying levels success.
Like many films forced to be made within the confines of quarantine and COVID restrictions, the story of As of Yet is largely told through digital dialogue. Not always through text messaging, which could quickly become tiresome, but through Zoom conversations where two or more characters are virtually facing each other and speaking into a screen. It authenticates the big Zoom era of socializing throughout 2020 (and still now as we make our way out of the pandemic), as well as highlights the conflicting feelings of claustrophobia and desolation while trapped alone our homes.
But it’s four months into quarantine and Naomi seems to be handling it fairly well actually. Well, at least as of yet. She’s physically healthy and has been entertaining herself by bingeing hours of television (namely, Law & Order: SVU), catching up with Sara in Florida with her family and other friends on social media and Zoom, and even flirting with a promising new romantic interest via Tinder. Reed, Naomi’s dating app bae, makes her laugh, seems genuinely interested in her love for Elliott Stabler and Olivia Benson (who she admits was “transphobic” in early SVU seasons), and engages in fun banter.
In other words, Naomi seems pretty confident and happy despite, well, everything going on. But that contentment rumples a bit when she begins to more ardently address some of the larger issues going on in the world around her. Like for many of us, it becomes unavoidable in conversation with Sara, who considers the #BlackLivesMatters protests to be violent and points to the more pacifist Martin Luther King Jr. as a better symbol of racial advocacy. To which Naomi quickly responds—as you can imagine—by telling her that King was still brutally killed despite his efforts.
The heated moment lasts just a few minutes, but it’s enough to ever so slightly shift the tone of As of Yet from centering a more languished, somewhat idle Naomi to someone more present. Not to the point of sententiousness, but it puts her in a space where her more characteristically passive aggressions toward Sara are not viable options, especially when Sara casually mentions she was at a party with a bunch of antivaxxers and so drunk she doesn’t even remember everything that happened.
It’s the hypocrisy of it all, or maybe the complexity of human behavior as As of Yet also suggests. Meaning, though Naomi eventually checks Sara on her shortsightedness, as well as judging her for potentially breaking quarantine to see Reed in person, Naomi’s cousin challenges her code-switching and having a non-Black romantic interest. (Naomi presumes Reed is South Asian, but even though she dials up her wokeness she can’t seem to find the words to ask him either way).
There’s a lot of issues bubbling at the surface of As of Yet, revealed in short bursts of excited to frustrated texts or video calls that are still relevant to our current experiences as Black women, some of us struggling to find ways to navigate newly cleared lines of communication that are still rather opaque. And Garron’s charisma and ability to fully inhabit the story make it especially easy to enjoy.
But the film is still hindered by the lack of things it’s able to accomplish in quarantine filmmaking. Nothing is particularly innovative about its style. Still, it is engaging to watch obviously resonant reflections of life’s new challenges articulated on screen—and hilariously pondered on a side chat with Naomi’s Black besties played by Quinta Brunson and Ayo Edebiri. The moment is extra funny because it’s true. Sometimes the only cure for white nonsense is Black friends reminding us that, no, we’re not crazy to feel this way and that Sara is “not my type of people.”
As of Yet is a breezy, slice-of-life film about today’s state of being that, even despite its dull approach, manages to strike a nerve.
Have you subscribed to theGrio’s new podcast “Dear Culture”? Download our newest episodes now!
TheGrio is now on Apple TV, Amazon Fire, and Roku. Download theGrio today!