"The Pocketbook" (1980) is a short film directed by Billy Woodberry, one of the most prominent figures of the L.A. Rebellion movement. This 13-minute film tells a story of a young African American boy named Henry who discovers a purse, deciding to return it to its rightful owner instead of yielding to his friend's encouragement to steal from it.
The plot may seem simple, but it is skillfully layered with social commentary on morality, poverty, and the realities of inner-city life. The film provides a snapshot into Henry's world, revealing the moral choices he faces and the societal pressures he must overcome.
The film is noted for its straightforward yet empathetic portrayal of its characters. Woodberry uses a non-professional cast to bring authenticity and honesty to the characters' experiences. The acting is raw and realistic, particularly the portrayal of Henry by an unnamed actor, which brings the audience close to the lived experiences of the characters.
Woodberry's direction excels in its subtlety and restraint. The cinematography, while simple, is effective in conveying the stark environment in which the characters live. The black-and-white film style enhances the atmosphere of urban hardship, providing a gritty realism that complements the narrative.
"The Pocketbook" does not rely on a dramatic score or intricate plot twists. Instead, it focuses on providing an authentic depiction of life in a marginalized community, which it achieves remarkably well. The narrative is moving and thought-provoking, challenging viewers to consider the daily realities for those living in poverty.
However, its limited length and minimalistic approach may not appeal to all viewers. Those seeking more dramatic, action-packed narratives may find the slower pace and introspective nature of the film less engaging.