Caleb Abrams (Jensen Atwood) is single today only because his former fiancee, Asia (Michelle D. Ivy), broke off their engagement the night before the wedding. During the year since, the buff Baltimore fireman has rededicated himself to his career while pursuing a love of painting in his spare time.
However, everything changes the fateful day he finds the body of a homeless man (Edgar Gregory) after extinguishing a fire in an abandoned farmhouse. Shaken to the core, Caleb cries on the shoulder of his pal Shelby (Omar Gooding), a veteran colleague who warns that “you’re going to see a lot of things you wish you could forget.”
Still, the tragedy continues to exact an emotional toll, as witnessed by his roommate, Imani (Danielle Ward), who asks, “Are you ever going to paint again?” “I lost my passion,” he confesses, before conveniently turning the tables by challenging her to finish the book she’s been writing for the last decade.
In addition, Caleb’s frustrated father, Pastor Spoon Abrams (Michael Pittman), notices that he hasn’t seen his son in church for a month of Sundays. “Are you too busy for the Lord?” he asks, adding, “It’s time for you to grow up.”
Consequently, at almost 40, Caleb suddenly finds himself contemplating his mortality and facing a fear of growing old alone. And even though he’s been dating a new woman, Breanna (Andrea Kelly), their relationship can neither fill the void left by the loss of Asia nor erase the traumatizing image of the hobo’s corpse from his head.
By contrast, most of his friends seem to be adjusting to adulthood just fine. Shelby and his wife, Jasmyn (Kathleen Purcell-Turner), are eagerly expecting their first child. Marlon (Lamar Barnes) and Imani have just announced their engagement and she’s asked him to serve as best man when they tie the knot.
Nevertheless, still waters run deep, and there are a number of skeletons waiting to burst out of the closet in “Before I Do,” the latest offering from the very talented Kimberly Conner. Besides writing and directing, Kimberly also co-produced the picture and appears in the film in a support role as the coroner.
Thanks to superb acting by a top-flight cast, it’s easy to get lost in the story, since it feels as if you’re watching a real-life tale. The character-driven drama deftly interweaves several compelling plotlines en route to a satisfying, if cleverly-concealed resolution it would be a crime to divulge. Rather than risk spoiling a whit of this intriguing, urban soap opera, permit me to close with a lines excepted from the poem “I Am Woman,” a touching tribute to black females recited by Imani:
“I am woman, minus the thighs and flowing hair
Proud of my rich skin tone, coarse hair and full lips
I am a woman with a story to tell
And a past as deep and dark as my roots
I am a woman, and despite what you think
When you look down your nose upon me
I possess dreams, aspirations and knowledge.”
Kudos to Conner and company for managing to make a thought-provoking, cinematic treat for African-Americans designed to simultaneously elevate, enlighten and entertain.