EMBRACEABLE YOU: Romance blooms for Lisa (Sang) and Sean (Martin), the film's terrific young leads.
Apparently you can go home again, but it can be a journey fraught with obstacles and heartache. So discovers Lisa Pullen (Karian Sang), the gorgeous, privileged and radiantly intelligent young lady at the centre of Destiny, first-time filmmaker Jeremy Whittaker's ambitious and impressively done feature-film debut, replete with flattering visuals that showcase Jamaica's glorious natural beauty, no shortage of colourful and well-drawn island characters, and a healthy serving of family drama that compellingly reminds you that, when all is said and done, blood is indeed thicker than water.
Fresh out of college and grappling with a bit of fiance trouble, the Toronto-based Lisa gets summoned to Kingston by Lennox Baxter (Munair Zacca), an esteemed barrister who brings to her attention a piece of real estate she's inherited in the wake of a tragic accident that claimed Mom and Dad. Trouble is, Sandals wants to transform the land into prime beach-front property, so Lisa doesn't hesitate to sell. But not before getting dragged into an ugly paternity squabble with a woman (dancehall diva Spice as the ghetto-fabulous Candy Flower) who claims Lisa's dad fathered her young son. Far from backing down, Candy proves she's up for the fight, demanding fifty percent of the land.
To say the least, it's a situation that puts poor Lisa's mettle to the test and pushes her to the brink. Lucky for her, she finds solace in her dear Aunt Janet (Kerstin Whittaker) and cool cousin Mystic (Sabrina Colie), a mother-daughter pair based in the country with deep-rooted issues of their own. But things are looking sunny-side up for Lisa, when Sean (Chris Martin) enters the picture. The hottest young music act on the local scene, he sweeps her off her feet and shows her the social ropes. Before long, romance blooms. But, as it happens, Lisa's past is just a plane ride away.
Working with co-writer Paul O. Beale, Whittaker weaves an emotionally rich story that's brought to vivid life by highly commendable lead performances, frequently stunning imagery, and a seductive reggae soundtrack featuring some of our best musicians and vocalists.
Appealing as they are on their own, Sang (very Kardashian-esque) and Martin (all debonair charm) share a winning chemistry that lends the film its riveting anchor. But the most revelatory performance comes from Colie, whose tough-love coaching style as Mystic practically saves Lisa's life. As for the rest of the supersized supporting cast, it's a who's who of outstanding modern-generation acting talents, including Noelle Kerr (as Sean's always-on-the-scene ex); Kevoy Burton (Mystic's pilot boyfriend Daniel); Makeda Solomon (Sean's unlucky-in-love big sis) and Lyndon Forte, who pours on the ick as Michael, Lisa's sly, disloyal fiance with a controlling streak.
Overall, Destiny is absorbing, neatly paced and great to look at. But beneath all that gloss and surface glamour lurks real grit and real people dealing with real issues. A worthy addition to Jamaica's indigenous filmography, the movie reels you in with its heartfelt (and occasionally humorous) exploration of dignity and identity and self-discovery — and the ties that bind. It's a cinematic achievement of which we can all feel proud, not least because the central notion that home is where the heart is rings refreshingly true. Tyrone's Verdict: B+