out of Five
Running time: 76
Impressively directed and nicely observed, this is a scruffily charming indie drama with an engaging central performance from Sean Bones.
What's it all about?
Directed by Ben Chace and Sam Fleischner, Wah Do Dem (the Jamaican patois for 'What They Do') stars Sean Bones as twenty-something Brooklyn slacker Max, who gets dumped by his girlfriend (a cameoing Norah Jones) just before they're due to embark on a freebie Caribbean cruise. When none of his friends want to go with him, Max decides to go on his own, but he quickly gets bored of all the boat-bound activities, most of which are aimed at his pension-collecting fellow passengers.
When the boat docks in Jamaica, Max seizes the opportunity to strike out on his own, but after a suspiciously overly-hospitable beach party he wakes up to find that he's been robbed of everything but his swimsuit. As if that wasn't bad enough, Max misses the boat, so he has to make his way across the island to the American Embassy in Kingston and has a series of encounters along the way.
Like the film itself, Sean Bones has a scruffily amiable charm that is extremely watchable. He may make some decidedly unwise decisions but it's impossible not to feel sympathy for a character who spends most of the film in just his pants – the scene where he makes it to the fenced-off dock just as the boat is pulling away is both upsetting and a textbook lesson in how to make your lead character sympathetic.
The film has a documentary-like feel that works extremely well, thanks to some impressive camerawork from co-director Sam Fleischner and naturalistic performances from Bones and the various people he meets along the way – Carl Bradshaw is particularly good as a helpful street prophet.
The film is packed with delightful moments, such as an impromptu football match (and an act of kindness involving sneakers) and a street party that breaks out as the news of Obama's election victory comes in via a TV set in an open-air bar.
Wah Do Dem is an enjoyable, well made and utterly charming indie drama with a strong performance from Sean Bones. Highly recommended.