STORYBOOK ENDING Film Review — Systemic Racism as a Dark Comedy?

Black Man Kills A White Police Officer in Self-Defense

We have to make sense of present and past scenes juxtaposed on top of one another. It’s much like a traumatized person trying to make sense of a painful event going over the details again and again from different angles. 

The film opens with candid photos of a happy couple. Abruptly the scene shifts to the woman from the photos whimpering with tears streaming down her face.  Beside her is the man from the photos, staring almost comatose into space. 

Next, a chilling scene that could be ripped from today’s headlines catches us up to that moment. The Black man, Wale, casually dressed, is seen amiably texting as he walks down the metal stairs of an elevated train platform onto a dark street. Suddenly, he gets rushed from behind by a thief who rips Wale’s cell phone out of his hands and runs off. Wale’s arms stretched upward as he exclaims in disbelief at the thief, What the @#$%!  Suddenly, he is again jumped from behind. But this time, Wale is able to fight with the attacker and Wale slam him to the ground. 

The sound of a skull cracking against the concrete reverberates. 

Hey you ok?

The attacker’s body is lifeless and blood pools under his head. Wale’s attacker’s jeans, dark jacket, T-shirt, White face and finally, a shiny police badge under his jacket, come into view. 

Wale’s eyes grow wide, his forehead beads with sweat; a look of terror sweeps across this face. He runs from the scene. As he runs away, the camera pans from the dead police officer on the ground to two figures crouching on the metal stairs holding a cellphone and filming the scene.

The Cover-up

The rest of the film takes place in Wale’s spacious home which he shares with his partner, Claudia. The scene shows a woman and a man tied up on the floor with the man’s mouth duct taped.  Virginia and Gonzo, we learn, are the couple that shot the cell phone video of the accidental killing of the White police officer. After following Wale home with the intention of extorting money in exchange for the video, they broke in. 

Somehow, Virginia and Gonzo got tied up. There’s a gun on the floor. Brass knuckles are nearby coming out of bag. One of Wale’s friends is sprawled on the floor dead; a casualty of the break-in.  Wale sees the situation going from bad to worse and says he wants to go to the police. Claudia backs up Wale and tells Virginia and Gonzo that they are going to prison for life. 


Virginia reminds them— no, it’s Wale, that killed a White cop. He will go to prison for life for sure.

Is a Storybook Ending possible?

Both couples are beaten, bruised, lacerated, one tied up with duct tape, and the other nearly paralyzed with fear. How can Wale explain that he accidently killed a White police officer in self-defense? How will A STORYBOOK ENDING conclude? Can suburban living and middle-class comforts delude us into thinking we can ignore or escape systemic racism? 

This film is not for the faint-of-heart. There’s some Tarantino blood, moody, noir photography, and includes some opera music as a back drop. Some might call this film a Dark Comedy and that phrase beginning with dark carries a lot of irony.  In this writer’s view, this short film about the trauma of coping with systemic racism is well worth a look.


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18:17 minutes 

Directed & Written by: Lanre Olabisi

Cast: Carra Patterson, Sawandi Wilson, Rotimi Paul, Toni Ann De Noble, Keith Sgrillo, Oluwale Bamgbose, Omari Eastman and Prince Eastman 

Cinematography by: Piero Basso, AIC

Film Editing by: Alex Kopit

For more information visit A STORYBOOK ENDING film website.

Caryn Hoffmann
Caryn Hoffman

About the Author: Caryn Hoffman

Ms. Hoffman has a degree in art and her life’s work has been environmentally and  politically focused. After community organizing on both coasts, she had a career as an educator in Southern California. Now, semi-retired, Ms. Hoffman leads an active, outdoor lifestyle, continues to advocate for the environment and travels. She is especially fond of art, film, cultural events and is an ardent, live music fan. She loves adventure travel including camping, hiking, kayaking, rafting and road biking.

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