Brian Tyree Henry has proven time and time again that he is one of the most magnetic actors working today. It doesn’t matter if he’s on stage in The Book of Mormon or on television in Donald Glover’s Atlanta, Henry grabs your attention with his stoicism and his dark eyes. After so many years of being a dependable supporting player, he is given the chance to play a loose, lovelorn character in the charming The Outside Story.
Henry plays Carter, a video editor who creates obituaries for famous actors before they die–one can’t help but think of the criticism of the In Memoriam of this year’s Oscars. Carter’s girlfriend, Isha, recently cheated on him but he’s still moving her car for her when she needs it as he waits for her to move her stuff out of their apartment. As he pays for a food delivery, Carter finds himself locked out (without his shoes) as his latest deadline looms and no surefire way to get back in.
Set in Brooklyn, The Outside Story could’ve been filled with outlandish New York characters or broad comedic sequences, but director Casimir Nozkowski instead tries to give Carter perspective with the people he refused to get to know in the first place. Carter hangs out on the roof with Elena, the shy young piano prodigy with an overbearing mother. He is offered a pair of shoes from the a kind neighbor and Carter helps her with a dating profile. The central relationship Carter has on the outside world is with Sunita Mani, a cop with an eagerness to hand out parking tickets.
The premise of The Outside Story is thin, but it never buckles under its own weight. We have all locked ourselves our or lost our keys or had a small, insignificant inconvenience ruin our day. For Carter, those just keep happening over and over again, and Henry makes us want Carter to succeed. There is a thread of sadness throughout Henry’s performance that is tender and relatable. As we are slowly heading back into the world, it’s surprising that this film about wanting to get back inside is so winning, but Nozkowski and Henry make it worth it.
The Outside Story is available to rent.