WHAT: The trailer for Netflix’s Obama biopic Barry.
WHO: First-time actor Devon Terrell stars as the college-aged Obama, alongside The Witch’s Anya Taylor-Joy, Boyhood’s Ellar Coltrane, and Ashley Judd in Vikram Gandhi’s narrative feature debut.
WHY WE CARE: The end of the Obama years have, of course, taken a surprising twist upon the unlikely election of his successor. But no matter who won two weeks ago, there’d be a lot of people mourning the final months of a President, by his very nature, was transformational for America. That’s why movies like Barry and Southside With You are fascinating: They’re not just biographies of important men as leaders, chronicling their rise to political power, like Oliver Stone’s W or Mike Nichols’s thinly veiled Clinton allegory, Primary Colors. These are stories of the young Obama—prequels, if you will, to the man who introduced himself to the world stage at the Democratic National Convention in 2004 and who became President just four years later. The fact that there’s such interest in chronicling those early days in films that bear the full weight of what he’d go on to accomplish is notable—and also notable is the way that Barry looks to present the quest of the college-aged Obama, seeking to understand what role America might make available to someone both bright and ambitious and uncertain about if he belongs anywhere. Knowing that, ultimately, America would elect him to the highest office in the land with more votes than any candidate in history blunts some of the sting of that search for understanding, but the results of November 8th also put us right back in the question that the movie seems to be asking: Obama may have earned two terms in the White House, but young people who look like him now are still wondering what roles America offers them. The answers probably won’t be found in Barry, but it’s a timely question to explore through the film.