Assembled with a cast of gifted amateurs, the talented and multi-tooled Amman Abbasi quietly rises to the surface with his directorial feature debut Dayveon, a melancholic coming of age film that intimately follows the life of a young boy as he flirts with a future in a gang. Shot in the economically depressed back roads of Wrightsville, Arkansas, Abbasi paints for us a flattened world where a 13-year-old boy, one whose brother just was killed, is faced with the daunting task of trying to both grieve and grow up. It’s a claustrophobic world; one where the future is not your friend but the present won’t let you stay, that Dayveon must become whoever it is that he will become. In many ways, we’ve seen this movie before. The tale of the teenage boy who gets tangled up in the heaviness of life as he impatiently sets out to discover who he will turn into, many artists have gone down this track. There is, however, something set apart about this film that keeps that track from feeling too tired. In a manner that I found to be dignifying of all of the young Dayveons that are in the world, Abbasi embeds an honesty inside of this film that allows for the messy realities to spill all over the story while restraining anyone from rushing in to clean it up. Even the audience, somehow, is at peace with the loose ends and complicated realities, recognizing that it would be a lie to neatly bind them up and send the boy on his way. Instead, fittingly, the film ends with two men who have hurt one another, holding each other up in embrace. They both have reasons to be upset with one the other, but their grief over what they’ve been born into and are now up against weighs heavier than what they’ve done. There’s a grace in this moment that feels familiar to all of us who know the middle all too well; that place where we are far from where we were but have yet to arrive where we need to be. Abbasi ends the story here, in the middle amidst the mess, recognizing that redemption isn’t a far away fairy tale that sits patiently on the side of a finish line but rather is an intrusive force that celebrates the inches gained in life, even if the marathon has yet to be run.