Medicine for Melancholy

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Medicine for Melancholy is a 2008 independent film by Barry Jenkins, starring Wyatt Cenac, Tracey Heggins, and Elizabeth Acker. The film appeared at several film festivals in 2008, including South by Southwest, Maryland Film Festival, and The Toronto International Film Festival.

Plot Summary[edit]

Medicine for Melancholy chronicles the one-day romance of Micah (Wyatt Cenac) and Jo’ (Tracey Heggins), two Black twenty-somethings, who have a one night stand and end up spending a full day and night together, despite Jo’s long-distance relationship with a wealthy, white gallery owner. The characters wake up in someone else's bed after a party, and head their separate ways. Jo' leaves her wallet in their shared taxi, and they reconnect when he returns it to her at her apartment. Throughout the day, Micah and Jo' visit the Museum of the African Diaspora, stumble upon an affordable housing coalition meeting, and attend a concert. Venturing around San Francisco, the characters discuss race and gentrification with regard to the low percentage of African Americans living in San Francisco.[1] Micah is openly critical of Jo's interracial relationship, as he struggles to reconcile his African American identity with the very white world of the Hipster scene in San Francisco.

Visual Effects and Portrayals of Black Love[edit]

From the gray tint of the film, the minimalist apartment settings, Jo's short straight haircut, the absence of Jo's bra, and the absence of irrelevant supporting actors - the audience is stripped of all notions of what black people should look like, what black love should look like, or what it should mean. It shatters our inclination to romanticize romance. The reality is that blackness is not the only factor one considers in a relationship, and it is not the only reason why two people should fall in love.[2]


Medicine for Melancholy mainly confronts themes of African American assimilation into "Hipster" or "Indie" culture. San Francisco, arguably the beating heart of these two counter-cultures, serves also as a racial foil: the city has a tiny African-American population of 7% [3] As Micah points out in the film, at an average San Franciscan concert it is not unusual for the crowd to be completely White except for one or two people of color; neither of whom is there with other people of color. This extreme racial isolation is mirrored in Hipster culture itself, one which claims to be "raceless," and yet (as Micah highlights) almost is completely defined by a performance of Whiteness. Accusing Jo' of assimilation, Micah strives to reclaim his essential "Blackness" as Jo' contrastingly claims Micah has a "hang up" about his race and strives to overcome her own.


  1. ^ U.S. Census Bureau. "San Francisco County Quickfacts". Retrieved 5 March 2012. 
  2. ^ "Medicine for Melancholy". 
  3. ^ U.S. Census Bureau. "San Francisco County Quickfacts". Retrieved 5 March 2012. 

External links[edit]