Strolling Along “Southside with You”

Long before the presidency or even Congress, Barack Obama was just a guy who was sweet on a girl named Michelle Robinson. Southside with You is their story.

Devoid of politics, Southside with You has you riding along on the first couple’s first date in 1989. It is kinda nice to see that even Barack and Michelle were a little awkward on a first date…just like everybody else.

As a movie, it is a very smooth and fluid narrative that gives a fresh introduction to the President and First Lady as ambitious young professionals still finding their way in life. Each is a highly intelligent graduate of an Ivy League school who wants to make something of their lives and cares about the human condition in general and the condition of those on Chicago’s notoriously impoverished and troubled south side more specifically.

Parker Sawyers plays Barack with a relaxed confidence and is thoroughly smitten with Michelle, who is played by Tika Sumpter. Sumpter’s Michelle is a little more tightly wound, but with good reason, as she relates her struggles as a black woman in a still sexist and racist, mostly white law firm. Each actor has clearly spent a lot of time studying the real Barack and Michelle’s mannerisms. Plus, they did a really good job of bringing them to life on the screen. Neither cartoonish nor impossibly perfect, they have flaws and weaknesses. They are quite relatable.

How the movie garnered a PG-13 rating is beyond me, unless I have just become totally desensitized to any light cussing that might have happened. There are no scenes of sex or violence. It is an innocent first date that Michelle doesn’t even consider a date for most of the movie. It seems fine for the whole family, as long as you can get the kids to sit still for long enough to watch 90 minutes of people walking around, talking and getting to know one another.

As a native of the Chicagoland area, it is nice to see the nice parts of the Southside, too. It isn’t all gangs all the time, and the movie shows some of those nicer locations without dwelling on the rough parts that are also very close to those places. It is amazing the difference a block can make.

The soundtrack is cool, too, as it takes you back to the time when Paula Abdul was queen of the airwaves for a summer.

In summary, Southside with You is a very nice, warm film that escaped much publicity earlier in the year but is definitely worth a spin for a romantic date flick or family flick to better get to know the president and first lady.

Nathaniel Cerf can be reached at

Please note that this is a blog for movie lovers and not a place for political discussion, so please do not engage in such conversation in the comments below.