Love Jones is a 1997 American romantic drama film written and directed by Theodore Witcher, in his feature film debut. It stars Larenz Tate, Nia Long, Isaiah Washington, Bill Bellamy, and Lisa Nicole Carson.
Two of the poems recited by Nia Long's character, Nina, were written by Sonia Sanchez and are included in her book Like the Singing Coming Off the Drums: Love Poems.
The film received favorable critical reviews, it was not a financial success. It has, however, a cult following because of its realistic characters and unorthodox take on the romance genre. It is Theodore Witcher's only directorial work to date.
In Chicago, Darius Lovehall (Larenz Tate) is a poet who is giving a reading at the Sanctuary, an upscale nightclub presenting jazz and poetry to a bohemian clientele. Shortly before his set, he meets Nina Mosley (Nia Long), a gifted photographer who recently lost her job. They exchange small talk, and Darius makes his interest clear when he retitles his love poem "A Blues For Nina". A mutual attraction is sparked between them, and Darius invites himself back to her place to ask her out. They have sex on the first date, but neither Darius or Nina are sure what to do next. Nina has just gotten out of a relationship and isn't sure if she still cares for her old boyfriend. Darius isn't sure whether or not to admit that he really cares for Nina. Nina's ex comes back and offers her train tickets to New York. Nina contemplates using them. After a night with Darius, Nina tells him that she is going to New York because of unfinished business. Darius knows that it's because of a man but does not show that he cares.
The producers of the film said that they wanted to make a modern film about African-American life that did not use violence and recreational drugs as elements in the story.
The film currently holds a 67% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes.
Roger Ebert awarded the film 3 out of 4 stars, and expressed the view that "There is also a bow to the unconventional in the ending of his film. Many love stories contrive to get their characters together at the end. This one contrives, not to keep them apart, but to bring them to a bittersweet awareness that is above simple love. Some audience members would probably prefer a romantic embrace in the sunset, as the music swells. But Love Jones is too smart for that." He also noted on the acting: "It's hard to believe that Tate--so smooth, literate and attractive here--played the savage killer O-Dog in Menace II Society. Nia Long was Brandi, one of the girl friends, in Boyz N the Hood. Love Jones extends their range, to put it mildly".
James Berardinelli also awarded the film 3 out of 4 stars for ReelReviews, and he determined that "There are several reasons why this film works better than the common, garden-variety love story. To begin with, the setting and texture are much different than that of most mainstream romances. The culture, in which post-college African Americans mingle while pursuing careers and relationships, represents a significant change from what we're used to. The Sanctuary, the intimate Chicago nightclub where Darius and Nina meet, is rich in its eclectic, bluesy atmosphere. And Love Jones's dialogue is rarely trite. When the characters open their mouths, it usually is because they have something intelligent to say, not because they're trying to fill up dead air with meaningless words".