Review: Selah and The Spades

Lovie Simone in Selah and The Spades

Selah and The Spades, steaming on Amazon, is an unusual coming of age story. It’s nothing like what you expect in a story about a girl at a boarding school.

Selah and The Spades is more like a mob boss story than a high school story. The main character, Selah (Lovie Simone) is a villain in the making.

Haldwell School, an east coast boarding school, is divided into factions. These factions control the student life. Selah is the head of The Spades, the group that provides drugs.

Selah isn’t interested in boys (or girls) or sex or parties or her future college experience. She is only interested in the power and control that she has over the drug trade at Haldwell School.

Since Selah’s a senior, she needs a protege she can train and pass The Spades down to when she leaves.

 Celeste O'Connor in Selah and The Spades

Paloma (Celeste O’Connor), a mere Sophomore, enters the school. She’s a photographer. She catches Selah’s eye while photographing the cheerleading squad. Selah decides Paloma is going to be her successor.

Lovie Simone, Jharrel Jerome, and Celeste O'Connor in Selah and The Spades

Up to now, Maxxie (Jharrel Jerome) has been Selah’s right hand man. Paloma begins to take his place.

Selah can be hard, ruthless and cold. Something unexplained happened to one of her former proteges. When Paloma begins to think she’s important to The Spades, Selah takes steps to show her who is boss.

I thought the film was uneven. At times I wasn’t sure what was happening. Selah was inscrutable to me. There were moments of steadily held extreme close ups. There was an electric intimacy in some scenes. Then there would be hand-held cameras running, light, confusion, darkness. There were odd camera angles.

The film was the creation of writer/director Tayarisha Poe. She made some really bold choices with this story. It’s possible that keeping the viewer off balance was intended.

Whatever Poe intended as a filmmaker, she held me in her thrall, even when I wasn’t sure what was happening. This dark and unusual look at a hidden world in a prestigious boarding school made me think. While I don’t give it my highest ratings ever, it was worth the watch.

Poster for Selah and The Spades

You get quite a lot about the film’s look and style from the trailer. This video of Tayarisha Poe talking about the scenes in the trailer is very interesting as well.

Have you watched this movie? What did you think of it?

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