Film Review: Know How

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Produced by The Possibility Project, a New York youth-serving nonprofit organization, Know How interweaves the true stories of five urban youngsters, most of them living in foster care.

Addie (Niquana Clark) lives with her aunt, as her biological parent is deemed unfit to care for her. Her friend Marie (Ebonee Simpson) worries about her grandmother in the hospital, while her own life is becoming uncontrollable in her group home. After she is removed from her abusive family, Megan (Claribelle Pagan) dwells in a residential treatment center, is bullied by the other girls who live there, hoards pills and plots her escape. Eva (Gabrielle Garcia) must act as parent to her sister, as their father is a crack addict. Austin (Gilbert Howard) is homeless on the street with his brother, the two of them getting money to eat by mugging people, and eventually dealing drugs.

These are gritty tales indeed, with a dearth of happy endings, and their importance in a film that looks at those fallen between the lowest cracks of society is undoubted, as is the sincerity of the filmmakers' intentions. Unfortunately, the dramatization of these personal accounts often feels flat and uninspired, an earnest but clumsily rendered high-school project. The use of songs and rap to "musicalize" it is far from efficacious, as here the writing is hardly any better. The acting ranges from adequate and better to painfully stiff.

There's a big, worthy and problematic topic in the inherent woes of the foster care system, but, sadly, Know How possesses the raw material without the basic cinematic finesse to truly do it justice.

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