Film Review: Between Sins
Director: Carlos Miller
Between Sins follows Coy (George Taylor) as he tries to reorient his life and rebuild his personal relationships after having been released from a five-year stint in prison. In trying to juggle all of life’s responsibilities, from raising his daughter to caring for his mother to catching up on unpaid child support, Coy finds himself split between the person he wants to be and the person he feels he must be to maintain control of his life.
Between Sins proudly wears its influences on its sleeve, though at times this can give the film a sneaking sense of déjà vu. Miller took apparent inspiration from other Florida-based, neorealist-inspired films, especially The Florida Project and Moonlight (even going so far as to include an ocean baptism). Miller’s mix of scripted segments and real-life protest footage brings to mind the works of Spike Lee, as well, particularly the powerful news-reel montage conclusion from BlacKkKlansman. While Between Sins might occasionally feed into well-worn genre tropes, the film’s earnest emotions will strike a chord with audiences.
This is largely thanks to powerful performances from the entire cast, which securely anchor the film’s emotions. George Taylor is a revelation as Coy, giving an understated performance that feels deeply lived in. Never once is his authenticity as Coy put into question, and he carries the film with a streak of stoic melancholy that makes him instantly endearing. Taylor is surrounded by a powerful supporting cast, particularly Rigoberto Duval, who portrays Coy’s gangmate Pudda with chilling ferocity.
These performances live off of the confidence of Carlos Miller’s screenwriting and directing. Miller’s dialogue is intelligent, feeling naturalistic while still managing to weave the film’s poetic and spiritual themes into conversations. It creates a mosaic of characters who each feel like their own, distinct individuals with strengths and weaknesses.
There’s a distinct sense of location crucial to Between Sin’s success. Miller has much love for Palm Beach and its residents; the film is populated by characters who are clearly locals (some of whom it seems may not even be acting), blurring the narrative line between fact and fiction. Between Sins takes careful note to capture landmarks and destinations that would be recognizable to those familiar with the area. Miller taps into the heart of the Palm Beach area and wears the city’s culture as a badge of pride.
This film’s ambition is larger than simply telling one man’s story. Between Sins has no qualms with openly addressing systemic, socio-political issues. Through the use of real-life trial footage and news coverage, Corey Jones’ murder mirrors Coy’s own experience and anxieties about trying to make a living for himself and his family in a world where so few value his livelihood. Between Sins also includes real footage from the George Floyd protests in the Palm Beach area, evoking the powerful emotions that Black communities felt during 2020. Between Sins’ docu-drama presentation keeps its narrative rooted in reality. This story does not exist in a vacuum and is indicative of the difficult experience that millions have lived through. How can you thrive in a society that constantly tries to oppress you or hold you back?
Though sincere, there are times when the film’s themes are hamfisted. Indulgent moments can occasionally come across as didactic, such as a scene where the voiceover of a pastor preaching repentance plays while a shootout occurs just off screen. Miller suggests that belief in God and love of your neighbor is the key to systemic issues, and while elements of that may be true, it feels like an oversimplification of the film’s hefty main question. Thankfully, Miller’s optimistic tone does steer Between Sins away from “trauma porn” territory into pathways that feel more hopeful for a brighter future.
Between Sins suggests that sins can be forgiven and minor stumbles are to be expected, and this is especially true from a debut film that grapples with the weighty theme of systemic racism. Ultimately, Between Sins is a powerful, confident feature debut from Miller, held aloft by its clear vision, powerful performances and heartfelt execution. –Seth Turek
Read more film reviews about movies dealing in redemption:
Film Review: Bruiser
Film Review: The Son
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