A Cocktail Convo with David Oyelowo

It’s Labor Day weekend, the last weekend of summer, and David Oyelowo knows exactly how he wants you to spend it. “Hopefully lots of people are going to go see Don’t Let Go. It’s a film I’m very proud of. It’s a real thrill ride. And yeah a good way to spend your Labor Day weekend.” That’s a great idea if you’re in Florida, where Hurricane Dorian is headed (unless of course the aforementioned storm knocks out power, but I’m an optimist).  Otherwise David’s movie faces an uphill climb.

But he hung out with The Cocktail this week to talk all things movie and career.

Timing Is Everything

You know what helps you get over unimaginable grief? A rift in the time-space continuum that gives you a chance be a sherpa to your loved ones and get them out of danger. That’s what’s going down Don’t Let Go. David told us, “Jack Radcliffe, who I play in the film, is a detective in south-central Los Angeles. He has this very close relationship with his niece, Ashley, as played by Storm Reid. Something quite terrible happens early on in the film. My family is murdered, my niece, my brother, and my sister-in-law. My character is going through a period of grieving when he suddenly gets a phone call from his niece.”

Yeah, that’s a call that’s gonna be tough to get your head around. “Somehow, time has split and she is calling him from two weeks before her murder, and he is in a rush to save her from that plight.”

From there he’s off to help her navigate bad guys and dangerous situations over their time-phone. There’s a lot of action, some suspense, family love. When I finished watching, I found it hard to put into any one genre. Turns out, David’s right there with me. “And then you throw in time travel as well. It was a real pleasure because it’s kind of a genre-defying film, centered around an unconventional love story between an uncle and a niece.”

At the end of the day, this is an overly ambitious film. The idea is cool but poorly executed and ends up convoluted. However, the performances are great. David and his supporting cast turn in strong efforts and saves the film from being a total mess, raising it up to the level of watchable.

David doesn’t agree with my harsh assessment. “There are so many things about it that are unusual and yet relatable. And that’s why when i read the script I thought ‘this feels special.’ Hopefully that’s what translates to the audience.”

(Spoiler Alert: It doesn’t)

Independence Days

Don’t Let Go comes from the same producers as Get Out, and the music and tone of the film give it away. They all come from Blumhouse studio, which is known for being hands-off. “Well what Blumhouse do, which I think is incredibly innovative and clever, is to get filmmakers they like and they empower them to tell the story they want to tell,” David told me. “So their films are popping in a way that maybe others aren’t because it’s not being micro-managed by studios and executives that are very nervous about what the audience may or may not gravitate towards.”

That kind of artistic freedom lead to a singular vision for this movie. “Our writer-director just got to make the film he wanted to make, and collaborate with actors that were buying into that vision. So I think, as you see with Jordan Peele on Get Out and Us, both of which were done by Blumhouse, we have another film here that is very much driven by a director’s singular vision.”

Freedom is good, but extra eyes are sometimes better. But as I said, David rocked his role.

Ready For Action

I’ve been watching Dave’s work for years. From fantasy in Star Wars to serious roles in movies like Selma and The Help, action in Don’t Let Go, his career is all over the place. “I like keeping it fresh. The genre I have been afforded the least is comedy. I loved doing a film called Gringo, which I did recently as well. I’d love to do more of that. I’d love to do more action. I get to do a bit of that in Don’t Let Go.”

For him, it’s about variety. “I’m just always looking to bring the changes, just to keep myself engaged, excited, and hopefully the same for the audience.”

Pay Attention

If you do decide to check out Don’t Let Go, David has some advice for you. “It’s a time travel movie, and by the end, I think people are going to want to see the film again instantaneously.

There are so many Easter Eggs throughout the film that sort of bring it together at the end.” He’s right about that. “I’ve watched it with a few audiences and there’s a lot of ahhhhhhh going on in the audience. I guess the thing to say to the audience is: pay attention.”

The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation

Normally I’d choose a drink with a relationship to or inspired by the movie. But today I’m going with a Hurricane. Let’s hope the cocktail version of  a hurricane is all that affects readers on the southeast coast.


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