Fruitvale Station (2013)

Fruitvale Station
Director: Ryan Coogler
Writer: Ryan Coogler
Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, Octavia Spencer, Kevin Durand, Chad Michael Murray, Ahna O’Reilly, Ariana Neal
Seen on: 8.12.2018

Content Note: police violence, racism

It’s New Year’s Eve and Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) has a full day ahead of him. He lives with his girlfriend Sophina (Melonie Diaz) and their daughter and he hasn’t been exactly honest with her, but he wants to do better. He also wants to try and find a new job before she finds out that he lost his old one. And it’s his mom’s (Octavia Spencer) birthday to boot. But by the end of the day, all of his plans will come to a screeching halt and Oscar will be dead, shot by the police.

Given that Fruitvale Station is based on a true story, I was aware that this film wouldn’t be exactly easy. Even though I was braced for that, it still hit me hard. It’s just really, really good.

The film poster showing Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) standing on a subway platform.

Coogler wrote a fantastic script for Fruitvale Station. The way he structures the film – starting with actual video footage of the shooting, then moving through Oscar Grant’s day and then ending up again at the shooting, only this time with actors – accomplishes two things: on the one hand, it brings Oscar closer to the audience as a person. Not a perfect angel, but a human being and such a young man who had so much of his life still in front of him. It makes the devastating loss of a life plain to see for everyone. On the other hand, it takes away the distance that often comes with/from security footage, not only for Oscar Grant, but for so many other things that have been caught on security cameras.

Michael B. Jordan does his part to bring this script to life. He is amazing in the role and the many facets of Oscar’s life. He manages to balance the tenderness of him as a father and a son with the toughness that a often difficult life demands of him. And it is a good thing for his performance, too, that the film doesn’t portray Oscar as some kind of innocent angel, as I said.

Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) standing with his arms raised and his back turned to a police officer (Kevin Durand).

It’s definitely a film that is tough to watch and that I wouldn’t recommend if you aren’t in a good place. The film takes you along for the ride in a very realistic way and leaves you no escape but to face the tragedy and the injustice that is the daily bread of black USAmericans. As a white European, I can hardly understand what this must mean, but this film brought me one step closer. At the end, I cried, and I still tear up thinking about it. Even more important to have seen it.

Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) and Sophina (Melonie Diaz) cowering on a subway platform.

Summarizing: Excellent.

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