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Film Review: Fruitvale Station

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★★★★★

January marks an impactful month for movies, the beginning of awards season and the release, here in the UK, for awards contenders. In short it’s a great month for movie lovers, and for all the Netflix subscribers it is also the month of new releases, therefore binge watching on more TV shows and films can ensue.

One of the films to us now available that should definitely be at the top of everyone’s watch list is Fruitvale Station. First screened at Sundance in 2013, where it began it’s winning awards streak (including Best First Film at Cannes) and high critical acclaim, it sadly still seems to be one of the most overlooked films of that year.

Now in 2015 this little gem is more relevant than ever in light of the racial tension following Ferguson unrest in the US, and to top it all off, it’s based on a true story.

This directorial debut written by Ryan Coogler is an exceptionally crafted film, one that has you gripped from start to finish. It follows Oscar Grant III during the last day of his life up until he was tragically shot and killed by a white police officer on a platform of Fruitvale BART station in Oakland, California in the early morning of New Years Day 2009 in front of a number of train passengers, many of whom collectively took their phones out and started filming the incident.

Aside from the well-executed, adrenaline fuelled, gut-wrenching climax, the movie does a terrific job at exploring the monotonous daily activities Oscar undertakes with poignant resonance. We are not watching a film about a hero, in fact through flashbacks it’s revealed that we are watching a film about a flawed human being who in his past has made many mistakes, including drug dealing which he served jail time for. He is also a young 22-year-old man who wants to do good, to be a better father to his little girl, a better companion to his girlfriend and a better son. The film reminds you that what you are watching is real, that it did happen, through it's great direction and solid screenplay. However it is the performances that resonate most and deliver a tough to watch, emotional roller coaster.

Michael B. Jordan is a name we will soon be seeing more of: as Oscar he delivers an utterly compelling, touching, sensitive performance and completely carries this film. Alongside him are Melonie Diaz as his girlfriend and mother to his child, and Octavia Spencer as his mother, who is unsurprisingly heart breaking in every scene, first as a woman who sees her son go down a dark road, and then as one who loses him far too quickly.

The unfairness of what happened to Oscar will be something you won’t soon forget, and with all the relevance this film holds today, it is a definite must see.

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