Kalindra (Shanola Hampton) turns to spoken-word poetry to escape her dead-end marriage to her high school sweetheart in “Things Never Said.” (Codeblack Entertainment)

Television writer Charles Murray makes a promising feature film debut with “Things Never Said.” He wrote and directed the movie about a Los Angeles woman with big dreams and a talent for spoken-word poetry, if only she could extricate herself from a dead-end abusive relationship.

Shanola Hampton plays Kalindra, a waitress who married her high school sweetheart, Ronnie (Elimu Nelson). Once a rising basketball star, Ronnie’s promising career was quashed by an injury. He’s since taken a job as a cashier at a gas station, but he’s hardly content, and his victim complex coupled with a volatile temper make for a nasty combination. Kalindra, in a bid to escape the doldrums of her marriage and also to overcome a devastating miscarriage, turns to spoken-word poetry. She has never left California but plans to one day perform at New York’s spoken word mecca, Nuyorican Poets Cafe.

It turns out Kalindra is a natural, and she catches the eye of the handsome Curtis (Omari Hardwick), who is so taken with her poetry that he recites her words back to her when they meet at a bar. For a moment she protests that she’s married and it’s wrong, but before you know it, the pair have struck up a passionate relationship that isn’t nearly as secret as it should be, considering Ronnie’s aggressive tendencies.

One of the film’s great assets is Hampton, a captivating actress who portrays Kalindra with a great depth of emotion. She proves her mettle as a leading lady, whether she’s performing on stage, yelling at Ronnie or pillow talking with Curtis. She has some especially memorable scenes opposite Charlayne Woodard (playing Charlotte, her mother), who urges Kalindra to stay with her husband. Time will tame the beast, mother assures daughter.

The story doesn’t always match the performances, however. It’s hard to get on board with the affair between Kalindra and Curtis, even if Kalindra’s paramour is a much better match for her than her husband. The amount of time the pair spends together may make a viewer skeptical considering Ronnie’s controlling nature.

More important, the film goes slightly too long, while spelling out morals that don’t need to be so explicitly stated. Kalindra has an electric spoken word performance toward the end of the film that would have served as the ideal conclusion, but instead the movie continues and ups the preachiness. When it comes to writing the poetry that Kalindra recites, Murray knows how to do more with less; he needs to apply that lesson to his filmmaking, too.


R. At AMC Magic Johnson Capital Center 12. Contains language and sexual situations.
108 minutes.