Within rom-com ‘The Lovebirds,’ a pointed message on racism

Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani in "The Lovebirds."
Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani in "The Lovebirds."Skip Bolen/Netflix

A combination rom-com and caper flick starring Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani, “The Lovebirds’’ is a pretty slight affair for the most part.

But there’s a brief but pointed exchange near the beginning of “The Lovebirds,’’ currently streaming on Netflix, that underscores the suspicion many people of color have about the criminal justice system. The exchange carries an extra jolt of resonance at a time when the nation is wrestling with the reality of systemic racism while convulsed by protests over the death of yet another unarmed Black man at the hands of police.

Rae (“Insecure’’) and Nanjiani (“Silicon Valley’’) play Leilani and Jibran, a once-besotted couple who are now in the process of breaking up after being together four years. But they are forced to go on the run after their car is commandeered by a guy who uses it as a murder weapon — with them in it.

Seated at a restaurant after they escape from the killer, Jibran insists that they must go to the police and report the murder. Leilani looks at him skeptically. “Us. You and me,’’ she says, gesturing toward herself and toward him. “How do you think that’s going to go? … They’re going to arrest us in two seconds.’’


Jibran presses on. “Maybe we just tell them the truth,'’ he says. Leilani administers another reality check: “Do you think the police care about the truth? You think they’re going to give us the benefit of the doubt?’’

For the rest of “The Lovebirds,’’ Leilani and Jibran try to get to the bottom of the murder. Rae and Nanjiani endow their characters with vivid enough personalities that Leilani and Jibran come across as an even match. But that early exchange lingers in the memory, a reminder that the couple is no match for a system stacked against them.


Don Aucoin can be reached at donald.aucoin@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeAucoin.