This Is Not a Date: 'Southside With You' Review

Updated on March 4, 2019

Southside With You chronicles the beginning of a relationship that famously continues to this day. The relationship begins one weekend day in 1989 when a law clerk named Barack Obama (Parker Sawyers), home for the summer from Harvard, asks his legal adviser at the firm, Michelle Robinson (Tika Sumpter) to attend a community activist meeting at a Chicago church. He deliberately arrives early to get her, but she doesn't welcome his quiet advances. He respects her wishes to not call what they're doing a date. She's mainly imterested in the meeting, though she does enjoy the art exhibit they attend before the meeting.

Michelle is interested in what Barack has to say as he addresses a church group dealing with a disappointment. Their motion to get a community center in their neighborhood was denied by the Chicago city council. The young law clerk reminds the group that their pastor has done other things in the hopes that they can still build that center. After the meeting, they talk about where they want to be down the road as they continue their day together.

Southside With You has some factual basis about their first day out of the office together, but writer-director Richard Tanne hasn't really crafted a story here. He has merely created a vignette that lacks any real conflict between its main characters. What's more, we know what has become of them since that day. Tanne's film merely takes viewers back to a day where two young people started to wonder where they'd be in the future, and wondered where their skills and passions could best be served. Tanne does take viewers back to the 1980s, and shows Barack driving an old car with a hole in the floor, while Michelle still lives with her parents as she helps her ailing father whenever she can. Southside With You is simple but enjoyable, even if the movie spells South Side as one word instead of the usual two.

The movie's two leads make a good effort to present themselves as two people learning to be friends. Sumpter, who also has a production credit here, has a stern presence as Michelle, who knows what she wants, and pushes her clerk's buttons to see how he'll react. In one scene, Barack takes the lead on buying lunch, but she objects to one choice to see if he's listening. In a later scene, she wonders what she needs to do to get her work noticed at the firm so she can advance beyond associate. Sawyers is good as young Barack, a man who wants to give a voice to those who don't feel as though they have a say in the affairs that impact them. He turns negatives into positives with the parishoners who voice disappointment, and he puts a positive spin on a pivotal scene in Do The Right Thing with another moviegoer. Sawyers also has a funny scene as he tries to hide his cigarette breath and smell before picking up Michelle.

Politics plays virtually no role in Southside With You, save for the brief conversations about the process. It's about a day that would, in time, change the lives of two people. They weren't in the public spotlight at the time. They harbored thoughts about making names for themselves before they try and find the right someone and start a family. One day, as many learn, can change everything. That day led to a path that would take two young legal professionals from a routine life at a law firm to a residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

On a scale of zero to four stars, I give Southside With You three stars. An ordinary day that ultimately became a little less ordinary.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile imageAUTHOR

      Pat Mills 

      3 years ago from East Chicago, Indiana

      Based on fact might be a bit of a stretch, Mel, according to what I've read. The basic facts are there, but the dialog seems a bit more polished than natural conversation. The movie title itself is not how Chicago residents refer to their environs. They live on the South Side. I still enjoyed a look at how the Obamas got started. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 

      3 years ago from San Diego California

      Fascinating vignette about America's first couple. How much is real, how much is mythology is probably only known to that Southside power pair. The myth makes the reality, regardless. Great review.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)