Directed by: Marcellus Cox
Written by: Marcellus Cox
Starring: Rashad Hunter, Stephen Cofield, Jr., Ashley Parchment, David Chattam, Gayla Johnson, Dennis L.A. White, Sean Alexander James, Samuel Whitehill
Synopsis (IMDb): A young sketch artist agrees to a in-house therapy session with a well renowned psychiatrist as his life begins sprawling out of control after years of physical and verbal abuse has finally taken a toll on him.
Mickey Hardaway is a film that can be a hard watch, but in a positive way–it’s a film that tackles generational trauma and the destruction it can cause head-on. In fact, I’d say that the film shows the extremes of what could happen to someone who feels like life has been against them since the beginning.
For me, this film hit a personal point because my father–who unfortunately passed away in 2021–gave my family a positive example of what it’s like to take on generational trauma and cut the cord. He had a hard upbringing probably not to dissimilar to Mickey’s (Hunter), but instead of channeling all his anger into destructive habits, my dad used his father as the example of what not to become. My dad was, to me, the epitome of self-actualization and rising above your circumstances.
Mickey, however, shows the exact opposite of what it’s like to have that self-actualization muscle damaged to such a point that he couldn’t see past his current circumstances and sustain hope of a brighter tomorrow. I’m clearly no therapist, but after going to therapy for about three years, I saw several points at which Mickey utilized his extremely traumatic past to excuse him from taking charge of his life, especially when his efforts might have put him in contact with barriers or problematic people. Mickey was very adept at utilizing victim mentality and putting his hope in external things and people, like his girlfriend Grace (Ashley Parchment). Mickey’s errors reminded me of some of the things I’ve worked on in my life–recognizing when I’m falling into the victim mentality trap and not putting my self-worth and hope, all internal mechanisms, into the external when it needs to come from my internal self.
These are things Mickey tries, to his credit, to work on in therapy with Dr. Harden (Cofield). Cofield, like my dad and like Mickey, had a tough upbringing but still had a core engine that got him out of his situation and into a self-actualized life. Dr. Harden is the foil for Mickey, and it’s up to Mickey to see Dr. Harden as a mentor and an example of a person who dealt with the cards life gave him and spun them around.
Overall, I really loved how this film tackled these tough concepts, and if you’re someone like me who has been steadily working on yourself in therapy, I was surprised how I could clock many of the egoic patterns and habits us patients are trained to get out of. What’s even more important is how the film wants its viewers to recognize that there is a person behind the statistic. Mickey’s fate, and the reactions afterward, showcase how Black men are often viewed as inherently broken. The actual truth is that Mickey–and many more like him–are fractured young boys who are never allowed a thriving, safe childhood. They grow up into fractured young men and, without that feeling of safety that’s so important to childhood development, those young men become broken and, in some case, unable to deal with the stresses of life. It’s one thing to have a bad childhood–it’s something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. But it’s another thing to not have an environment or even an internal drive that promotes resilience. Resilience is the key to making it past struggles, not wishing for a perfect life or not even wishing to never be a victim.
There’s a lot to parse through with Mickey Hardaway, and I think it’s a film that will stick with you long after the film ends. I hope it causes its audience to further humanize Black men and ask themselves what these men’s inner lives might be like before they judge them. Their stories would certainly surprise us and make us in awe of what they’ve endured.