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The Outside Story movie review (2021)

She’s also the sole reason Charles leaves the house, as he’s promised to honor alternate side of the street parking for her car as she prepares to move out of his place. That traffic ticket bane of New York City area existence is what sets the story in motion. After he’s dissed over a lack of tip by his food delivery guy—the one person who has seen him on the regular—Charles accidentally grabs the wrong set of keys and leaves his house to chase the guy down and offer him a measly dollar. The good intention causes him to be locked outside draped in a ratty sweater and minus his shoes. As if this weren’t enough trouble, Charles is also on an editing deadline for Turner Classic Movies. If he can’t get back inside, and soon, he just may lose his job.  

So begins his journey through the neighborhood, reconnecting with the life outside his apartment. Nozkowski crafts a sweet, gentle situational comedy, surrounding his lead with a slew of supporting characters whose expected quirkiness is sharpened by a heaping dash of saltiness and keen observation. Of course, everyone has some wisdom to impart to Charles, but the method, and Charles’ response, unfold in often unexpected ways. Much of this stems from the actors, all of whom make meals out of the smallest parts. They’re in a playful orbit around the film’s worthy, shining star.

This is an excellent showcase for Henry, who takes on his first major leading performance after memorable supporting turns on the TV show “Atlanta” and in films like “If Beale Street Could Talk.” His other work shows a knack for both comedy and drama, and Charles contains multitudes of both. Henry has always reminded me of the late Robin Harris, whose large, physical carriage also vibrated with assurance and swagger. Like Harris, Henry can spit the saltiest, most ribald lines with sinful glee, yet his eyes alone can convey pathos like the best of the silent film stars. We know there has to be a scene where Charles becomes “unstuck,” that is, he returns to life. But “The Outside Story” doesn’t make it a grandiose gesture. Instead, the film portrays it as a silent moment on Henry’s part. The camera stays on his face, and his response is simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting. This is a beautiful performance, a calling card for the starring roles to come.


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