Joe Robert Cole’s second feature eschews the usual techniques for establishing audience rapport with its central character: before viewers properly get to know aspiring rapper Jakhor (Ashton Sanders), he shoots an unknown man and woman in front of their daughter. The film then cuts to his courtroom sentencing, where Jahkor’s voiceover narration – a constant through the upcoming narrative – cuts through on his way to incarceration: “People say they want to know why, but […] they want an easy answer.” All Day and a Night then proceeds not to give either, instead opting for a much richer exploration of what led one man to a reunion with his father (Jeffrey Wright) behind bars.

All Day and a Night is far more expansive than its title suggests; the murder is a footnote on decades of street fights, song writing, and fracturing allegiances. The two-hour run time allows for expansive detours and sidebars, building a world encapsulating Jahkor’s development but not directly linked to the opening crime. The result is unfortunately a disjointed narrative, but one unafraid to breathe.

Moonlight star Sanders is infinitely watchable, subtly self-destructive and volatile while genuinely earning the audience’s sympathy in flashbacks stacked almost overwhelmingly against Jahkor. The scenes between him and Wright capture years of unspoken friction and understanding. The supporting cast are sadly not given the same meaty material or narrative motivation, but Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s swaggering gang leader is a standout.

There are two recurring emphases in Jahkor’s narration recurring: that survival – not living – is the generational knowledge passed down in black America, and that ‘a million tiny cuts’ will seal his and his friends’ fates. All Day and a Night makes no judgement and begs its audience not to do the same. While lacking focus in the details, its searing central character study is perfectly judged.


Available to watch on: Netflix


CAST: Ashton Sanders, Jeffrey Wright, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Isaiah John, Kelly Jenrette

DIRECTOR: Joe Robert Cole

WRITER: Joe Robert Cole

SYNOPSIS: After committing a double homicide, an aspiring rapper reflects on the life that led him to prison.