A teenage girl living in a bad neighborhood gets a wakeup call when she witnesses a police officer shoot her friend.
A Powerful Script;
With Confident Direction;
And A Breakout Star.
There have been a lot of movies in 2018 that deal with racial tension and police brutality, and it’s not hard to see why. Art reflects life, and with stories like the one at the center of this film in the news so frequently, major releases like this can spark some much-needed introspection and conversation. This is a very strong, powerful movie that will certainly resonate with a lot of people, and the filmmakers respond to knowing how many open ears they will have by speaking loudly and clearly about race, police, duty to your community, the strength of family bonds, morality and finding your own authentic voice. It is engaging, enraging, sweet, funny, tense and very heartfelt.
Audrey Wells has written a very good script complete with a well-rounded group of characters and a number of perspectives. Like Monsters and Men, it examines police brutality from different sides, including an impressionable teen and a black police officer. Everyone struggles with identity and how those around them perceive them, attempting to reconcile those notions against how they perceive themselves. We all change ourselves a little bit between different situations and settings, but where do you draw the line? At what point do you take a stand to just be the single version of yourself that you want to be? Starr acts differently at home in her rough neighborhood than she does in her sanitized prep school. She wants people to see her blackness but not to define her solely by it. Carlos, in simply choosing to be a cop, could be making himself an accidental enemy in the eyes of his own community, as he tries to find the balance between his “blue” side and his black side. The results of some of these identity struggles can be both sad and eye-opening all-around. There are some who will find the script preachy, but it didn’t strike me as such because the story is told through the eyes of a teenager who is not only waking up to some harsh realities, but also feels the need to deliver her message plainly and as pronounced as possible. The viewpoint of the story matters, and to me that vantage kept the script from ever coming across as preachy to me.
Tillman Jr does a great job directing this film, keeping things moving along at a good pace and providing some striking imagery along the way. His timing was very good, as he seemed to know just when to raise the tension level and when to let the air out of a scene. There are a few perfect moments of humor that keep the overall mood balanced at precise moments and they are very well done and genuine. He gets stellar work from his cast, namely Amandla Stenberg as Starr and Russell Hornsby as her father Maverick. The family bonds on display are very strong absolutely essential to the film working as well as it does, and those two knock their roles out of the park. It is quite the juggling act to cover so much thematic ground without overstaying your welcome and never becoming a convoluted story, and Tillman Jr pulls it off with ease. This is a very good piece of work and in a year with so many films dealing with similar themes, this makes sure to leave its own, distinct imprint.