“They all call me brother to the night and right now I am the blues in your left thigh, trying to be the funk in your right—is that alright?”
Each time I watch that introductory scene from *Love Jones—*the one when Darius (Larenz Tate) steps to the stage at an open mic just moments after meeting Nina (Nia Long) at a Chicago lounge—my heart, my mind, and my body responds with an affirmative. The 1997 film, about a poet and a photographer who fall in love, has smile-inducing, heart-fluttering capabilities that have made it my go-to for rainy days at home, date nights in, and those moments when nostalgia calls for a sweet fix that’s been tested with time.
Though it’s been more than two decades since the movie hit theaters, I still recite its lines like it opened yesterday. Along with other notable ’90s films, it transports me to an era when life was good, music was soul-stirring, and it wasn’t uncommon to see Black love on screen. Today Love Jones is regarded as a Black cult classic, and with good reason. The film, written and directed by Theodore Witcher, emits good vibes through perfectly written dialogue, directing, and acting from Tate and Long that transcends the screen.
Darius and Nina’s love story is not original, but that’s what makes it so good. It’s relatable, real and complicated, with just enough build-ups and let downs sparsed throughout that you’re all in on how the story ends. Witcher’s decision to make the main characters creatives (writer and photographer, respectively) in an eclectic city like Chicago further layers the guy meets girl, girl falls for guy, things go left, and love gets put to the test storyline that hopeless romantics like myself live for. Add in a few witty friends, a shady character, and a toxic ex, and it’s one of the best romance movies of all time.
Watching Nina and Darius fall in love is like playing back the first few weeks—months if you’re lucky—of a new relationship over, and over again. That introductory phase when butterflies abound, phone alerts feel like gold, and being in that special someone’s company is enough to conjure up dreams of eloping. But what’s equally as beautiful as watching their romance come together is the way in which their deep connection helps paint a portrait of Chicago that doesn’t rely on the suffering of Black souls. Instead, it involves the spirit of our humanity and the depths at which we love.