NYU's Independent Student Newspaper

Washington Square News

‘Retrieval’ finds own place in realm of slave narrative films

Courtesy of Variance Films

With the popularity and success of films like “Django Unchained” and “12 Years a Slave,” the slave narrative seems to be a popular trope of recent cinema. While combining elements of the slave narrative with those of a Western, “The Retrieval” finds its own voice, clearly distinguishing itself from convention.

“Retrieval” is about 13-year-old Will (Ashton Sanders), who is sent to the North with an older adviser, Marcus (Keston John), to bring runaway slave Nate (Tishuan Scott) back to the South. Although Will is slightly stoic, he is quick to make friends with Nate.

The Civil War is always on the outskirts of the path they walk — they move along their route, always aware of the danger with gunshots and cannon fire often heard in the background.

While the white men normally required only the retrieval of runaway slaves, Nate’s case is unique. He is not a runaway, but a freedman worth a decent sum of money. The white men intend to steal Nate’s belongings, offering a share of the money to Will and Marcus.

When a battle breaks out before them, Will and Marcus are left in the woods to fend for themselves. Will must consider the moral dilemma that has been developing since he was assigned his task — does he disobey his commands to bring Nate back to the South to be betrayed? Or should the teen team up with Nate and risk his life to fight against the white slave owners?

Thanks to performances from newcomers Sanders, John and particularly Scott, “Retrieval” has moments that are particularly poignant. Even with its dismal, unsaturated color scheme, the cinematography is nothing short of beautiful, depicting large, bucolic scenery.

The impressive lighting design creates gorgeous contrast, and the camerawork reveals a real grittiness. The strong composition puts the audience directly into the melancholic atmosphere and high stress involved in the slave trade.

The film shines most when it sticks to the personal elements of its narrative, particularly the relationship between the oddball pair of Nate and Will. Whenever the film diverts its focus, it does not hold together quite as well due to a contrived plot and budgetary constraints.

Overall, “The Retrieval” is a character driven drama that strikes its audience to the core, bringing up horrific tragedies that are deeply embedded in American history.

A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, April 2 print edition. David Leidy is a staff writer. Email him at [email protected]

Related Stories

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






1 Comment

One Response to “‘Retrieval’ finds own place in realm of slave narrative films”

  1. John Francis Fox on April 2nd, 2014 3:48 pm

    Thank you for the insightful review of “Retrieval.” If anyone is interested in attending any talkbacks after the film, there are three: at the Wednes 7:45 screening on 4/2, at the Fri 7:45 screening on 4/4, & the Sat 3:15 screening on 4/5.

Comments that are deemed spam or hate speech by the moderators will be deleted.

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




Navigate Right
Navigate Left
  • ‘Retrieval’ finds own place in realm of slave narrative films

    ARTS

    NYU Alums Create Grant to Support Indie Film

  • ‘Retrieval’ finds own place in realm of slave narrative films

    ARTS

    Tribeca 2017: ‘Elian’ Recounts the U.S.-Cuba Showdown Over a 5-Year-Old Boy

  • ‘Retrieval’ finds own place in realm of slave narrative films

    ARTS

    Third Street Music School Nurtures Souls

  • ‘Retrieval’ finds own place in realm of slave narrative films

    ARTS

    C3 Exudes Eclecticism With Debut EP

  • ‘Retrieval’ finds own place in realm of slave narrative films

    ARTS

    Film Favorite ‘Anastasia’ Takes a Journey to the Stage

  • ‘Retrieval’ finds own place in realm of slave narrative films

    ARTS

    ‘Groundhog Day’ : Deja Vu Dances all Over Again

  • ‘Retrieval’ finds own place in realm of slave narrative films

    ARTS

    Tribeca 2017: Jon Hamm, Jenny Slate Can’t Save ‘Aardvark’

  • ‘Retrieval’ finds own place in realm of slave narrative films

    ARTS

    Tribeca 2017: ‘A Thousand Junkies’ is a Comedic Ode to Addiction

  • ‘Retrieval’ finds own place in realm of slave narrative films

    ARTS

    Tribeca 2017: Despite All-Star Cast, ‘The Circle’ Is Disastrous

  • ‘Retrieval’ finds own place in realm of slave narrative films

    ARTS

    Tribeca 2017: An Anniversary You Can’t Refuse

NYU's Independent Student Newspaper
‘Retrieval’ finds own place in realm of slave narrative films