For two young boys in the Brooklyn projects post-recession, survival is a constant struggle.
“The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete,” which opens in select theaters on Friday, follows a 14-year-old and nine-year-old’s attempts to fend for themselves during one sweltering summer as they try to protect themselves from drugs and street violence. The film boasts an all-star cast that includes Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, Grammy nominee Jordin Sparks, and Tony and Golden Globe winner Jeffrey Wright.
Columbia dropout Alicia Keys provides original music for the film. At a recent press conference, she weighed in on the film’s importance.
“It breaks the stereotypes,” Keys said. “When we see films like this we make judgments on how it’s going to be, and this film eliminates the clichés. It really gets to the heart of the matter and human emotion. There’s a lot of hope, struggle, triumph and despair in this film.”
Inner-city kids Mister (Skylan Brooks) and Pete (Ethan Dizon) are left to navigate Brooklyn after Mister’s mother Gloria (Hudson) is taken away by the police. In one of the film’s most poignant moments, Mister witnesses his mother working as a prostitute.
Hudson said it was difficult for her to adjust to her role.
“When I got home at night, my son would say, ‘Mommy, why are you so different? Mommy, you’re scaring me, don’t do that,’” she said. “But I did try to detach myself from it.”
Keys’ connection with the film also resonated with her role as a mother.
“Now that I have a son, I feel so much more deeply the injustice of these kids and what they have to layer on top of themselves to get through the day,” she said.
Audience members will find themselves rooting for Mister and Pete by the end of the film, praying that, somehow, they will get out of the mess that they’re in. Even the police officers in the film sympathize with the boys. At one point, the officer who was after Mister and Pete all summer tells Mister to “never give up—to never stop fighting.” Mister responds, “But I can’t do it all on my own.” Despite the circumstances that have forced him to grow up relatively quickly, the reality is that he is still a kid.
Thanks to spot-on casting, the title characters share a strong bond. The film’s director, George Tillman Jr., made this process a priority.
The actors who play Mister and Pete “didn’t even know each other,” he said. “But when they came in on the same day, I knew that they were right.”