The opening snapshots of Antonio Méndez Esparza's Life and Nothing More make it clear that the life of teenaged protagonist Andrew (Andrew Bleechington) is mundane but not inconsequential. "Life is based on decisions you make," Andrew is told. There's a lot of weight on those words since he is a young black man who already has had some brush with the law, and this is decidedly different than a Caucasian coming-of-age story. The film takes place sometime in 2016 (there's talk of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton), but the narrative remains personal and microcosmic, tracking the days as Andrew's adulthood approaches, meaning prison becomes an increasingly looming threat.
His father, with whom Andrew barely has a relationship, is already behind bars, and Andrew's mother Regina (Regina Williams) puts a suffocating amount of pressure on her son. But just when viewers might think Regina is a bit too strict, the film switches to her point of view and becomes empathetic toward her struggles as a single mom, raising both Andrew and his baby sister while working a minimum wage waitressing job. After a lot of convincing, Regina starts dating a patron named Robert, and his growing presence in their lives alienates Andrew even more. It's a shame we never get to know Andrew as well as Regina -- arguably part of the moody teen persona -- but it's even more affecting when Andrew's initially passive existence escalates due to white fear, and his mother is left to fight for his chance at life.