For many people, there is never a more invigorating time in life than those final months of college before being thrust into the “real world.” The uncertainty ahead leads many of us to cling to those last joyous weeks with friends in a setting that has turned into something of a home. In Carey Williams’ outstanding Emergency, adapted from his short film of the same name, best friends and roommates Kunle (Donald Elise Watkins) and Sean (RJ Cyler) are about to embark on an epic night touring the school’s frat parties with hopes of making it into the Black Student Union’s Hall of Fame. However, what appears to be a comedy about Black men in their final weeks at their predominantly white college becomes a gripping commentary on racism and humanity.
Kunle and Sean could not be more different. A science nerd who spends his days in a biology lab, Kunle is the son of African immigrants with plans to head to Princeton University to earn his Ph.D. In contrast, the care-free perpetually high Sean has no concerns or objectives for the future. Instead, he’s focused on partying and rekindling things with his crush.
The film opens as the gentlemen head into a class where their white British instructor discusses offensive language. The topic of the day is the n-word, and the satirical and biting scene becomes downright hilarious as viewers watch the horror and discomfort of both Kunle and Sean while the teacher says the word repeatedly. (For educational purposes, of course.)
While humorous, Williams uses the scene to showcase the astonishing but all-too-common experiences people of color deal with in predominately white institutions. Moreover, it also highlights Kunle and Sean’s contrasting personalities. While Kunle tries to wrestle with the professor’s reasoning for her teachings, Sean thinks she should be fired. Despite the sheer awkwardness of the class, the friends press on with their day. They head home for the evening to prepare for an epic night and to…