Director: Ryan Coogler
Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, Octavia Spencer
The date is December 31, 2008: Oscar Grant (Jordan) is a 22-year-old man in San Francisco’s Bay Area, whose New Year’s Eve plans are to celebrate his mother’s birthday with his girlfriend, young daughter and extended family. In a film that portrays a fateful day in his life, we are shown that Oscar is trying hard to make a living, despite a troubled past, and to do the right thing for his own family. He is by no means a perfect man, as we learn from the very beginning of this film, but that doesn’t mean to say that he isn’t trying to be good.
While this film has done very well at film festivals – and, in some ways, deservedly so – it’s not without its flaws. Fruitvale Station looks at what was a scandalous moment in American life, and the day’s events that led up to what became national news in the United States.
Michael B. Jordan, who recently took to the big screen in the much lighter That Awkward Moment, is absolutely superb in his role as Oscar. There are certain scenes which allow the audience to forget that Jordan is only an actor, and instead to connect fully with the character he portrays. Octavia Spencer, as Oscar’s mother, is equally brilliant, tugging at our heartstrings when the moment is just right.
What lets this film down, however, is its direction, and quite possibly the editing as well. Quite a few scenes are either too slow, or completely unnecessary, in the portrayal of this story, bringing down the overall pace of the film. This could well make the audience impatient at first, although all is (almost) forgiven when the drama properly takes hold.
Based on real events, this film takes a well-needed look at police brutality by opening the film with real video footage, and ending in a similar fashion. While the end result is not perfect, the story which Fruitvale Station tells is still an important one which, if possible, should be given a chance.
Fruitvale Station opens at the Irish Film Institute from June 6. For more information or to book a ticket, visit ifi.ie.