Despite an appealing lead and admirable emphasis on education and intelligence, "How She Move” can't overcome the cliches and contrivances of screenwriter Annmarie Morais' story.
A 2007 Sundance Film Festival selection, "How She Move” is set in the hard-scrabble, heavily immigrant Jane-Finch Corridor in Toronto. Director Ian Iqbal Rashid gives the movie an authentic, gritty look.
The story follows Raya Green (Rutina Wesley), the smart, ambitious daughter of Jamaican immigrants. Raya single-mindedly pursues her dream to attend prestigious Seaton Academy, go to medical school at Johns Hopkins and leave the 'hood behind forever.
But her boarding school tuition money is eaten up battling her older sister's drug habit, and after her sibling's death, Raya has to return home.
Back in her old public school, Raya doesn't want to fit in or stand out, and her aloof disdain draws the ire of former pal Michelle (Tre Armstrong), a tough girl treading dangerously close to the same path as Raya's sister.
A face-off with Michelle rekindles Raya's interest in step dancing, the competitive urban dancing she and her sister enjoyed as youngsters. When she learns that an upcoming step contest has a $50,000 prize, Raya sees a way to get her future back on track.
Since the big-money prizes always go to male teams, Raya rebuffs Michelle's invitation to enlist with her all-female crew. Instead, Raya approaches local stepping champ Bishop (Dwain Murphy) about joining his crew.