Selah and the Spades

Selah and the Spades

In Theatres: 
Apr 17, 2020
Running Time: 
97 minutes

Writer and director Tayarisha Poe takes all the drama of high school and ups the ante to Shakespearian levels in her feature film debut, Selah and the Spades. The film follows Selah, the leader of the Spades faction at her Pennsylvania boarding school as she tries to navigate her senior year and keep the control and order, both within her faction and between the other four. But when you’re at the top, there’s only one way you can go.


As the leader of the Spades, Selah is in charge of all things related to alcohol, drugs, and any other illegal substances that a student might want to get their hands on. It’s what the Spades are all about. Selah runs just one of the five factions at her boarding school, but the Spades are by far the most powerful. As a senior, Selah is looking to pass on her knowledge and power to someone else once she leaves, and she takes a liking to Paloma, a new student who has a keen eye for photography. As Selah shows her the ins and outs of the business, Paloma learns that to be at top means that you’re always gonna have a target on your back.


Selah and the Spades is more than just your average high school drama film. The introduction of the various factions at the beginning is interesting and gives the whole story a Shakespearian vibe to it, like families vying for power. They explain all the factions and who the main players are but frankly it doesn’t matter all that much because it’s only the Spades who are mostly shown handling their business. It’s Selah who interacts with everyone else, along with her right hand man Maxxie who is in charge of the books. After all, she is the most powerful figure at school.


The film explores the pressures and desires of these students, not only from the school and their parents but from each other as well. On the surface there’s still the need to excel and do well at school, which is especially important according to Selah’s mother. Grades are all that matter to her. Selah believes otherwise, and while she has no problem acing any test, her real drive is with the factions.


Selah’s lust for power and to be at the top couldn’t be more obvious, just like the references to Macbeth. Sure, she’s teaching Paloma how to take over the business once she’s gone, but her own ego often gets in the way of truly handing off the baton. Just like most kings, Selah’s shortcomings are caused by her own hands.


What I enjoyed about the film is how it keeps you engaged until the very end. It has all the drama of high school but at the same time goes in a couple of unexpected directions. There were moments where I was worried that things would play out in typical fashion that we’ve seen time and time again, but Selah and the Spades manages to keep things fresh and interesting. It’s a strong debut for Tayarisha Poe and a good sign that she’s well on her way to the top.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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