All of this backstory sets the stage for an understated story about enduring friendships in “If Not Now, When?” The friends clash, they make up. They experience highs and lows in their romantic relationships. Unfortunately, the drama never comes to life. It’s on a strange middle ground where there’s no surprises even when there are life-changing revelations. There’s a lack of connection even when the friends have supposedly let bygones be bygones. Between its amateurish direction, pedestrian cinematography, and overly plotted script, the narrative and visuals don’t coalesce into a story that feels restorative, cathartic or even joyful.
“If Not Now, When?” is the feature directorial debut of two of its stars, LeSeon Bass and Good. (LeSeon Bass also holds the writing credit.) And while their intention to bring a well-meaning story about Black women and friendships to the screen is admirable, there’s just something missing in the final result. The movie borrows a fair amount from “Waiting to Exhale,” which also follows four Black career women, their friendships and their romantic lives, as well as other films about a group of women who don’t always get along but love each other anyway. Central to each of these movies is that tension within strained friendships that come together by the end. The friendships in “If Not Now, When?” are so strained that even the reconciliations don’t feel all that much more different from when we first meet them on the outs.
It’s strange too that Tyra, Good’s character, is essentially isolated from the others for long periods of time while in rehab. Her road to recovery has the look and feel of a made-for-TV movie about opioid addiction—it’s fairly surface level without getting into too much detail. It’s as if it made for a convenient source of conflict, enough to build out around without digging into it. You expect her to rejoin the group by the film’s end, but she misses the healing process the other three go through. It doesn’t feel like she’s back to being part of the group even when they’re celebrating together.