Six people, an authentic cross-section of New Yorkers, are stuck in an MTA subway car, stopped in an underground tunnel, for like 45 minutes. Naturally, they begin to sing at one another. Stuck — the second feature from director Michael Berry, based on a stage play by Riley Thomas — is pure gritty urban joy, all marvelous, touching songs about grief, sacrifice, mistrust, misunderstanding, and other intimate perils. The rattle of subway trains passing on adjacent tracks creates its own beat as construction worker Ramon (Omar Chaparro: Huevos: Little Rooster’s Egg-Cellent Adventure) sings about working three jobs so that his little daughter can take dance lessons; his Spanish lyrics are untranslated because this is New York and, as homeless but dignified Lloyd (Giancarlo Esposito: The Jungle Book) suggests, translation is not needed if you “stop listening with your ears.” Dancer Alicia (Arden Cho) discovers that Caleb (Gerard Canonico), who bounced onto the subway car hot on her heels, isn’t quite the stalker she believed he was; they share secret pain and not so secret artistic ambitions.
(Caleb’s song about the comic-book hero he is creating, wheelchair-bound Magnificent Maggie, is awesome.) A young black woman, Eve (Ashanti: Resident Evil: Extinction), and an older white woman, Sue (Amy Madigan: The Lifeguard) turn out to have some things in common as well. The potential for triteness here was enormous, for what Stuck has to say is not unfamiliar: people aren’t always what we assume they are (though we might have good reason for our assumptions), and if you get to know a stranger and they may defy your expectations. But Berry’s smart direction, which creates rich worlds for these characters far beyond the confines of the subway, as well as the genuine warmth and humanity the terrific cast infuses them with, transform this into an exuberant marvel. This is the rare NYC-set movie that truly captures New York. The only implausible thing about it? A real stuck subway car would be rammed with people, not a mere half a dozen.