You might expect a film about the real-life shooting of a young black man by a white cop to burn with outrage and fury, but writer-director Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station is notable for its restraint and compassion.
Not that outrage is missing from Coogler’s account of 22-year-old Oscar Grant’s fateful encounter with the police on a train station platform in Oakland, California in the early hours of New Year’s Day 2009, which was caught on mobile phones by appalled bystanders and provoked riots in the days that followed.
But Coogler also wants us to feel a sense of loss at Oscar’s death and does so by reconstructing the intimate, ordinary details of his life over the course of his final day.
The Oscar we encounter is no saint. He’s been to prison, been fired from his job, been caught cheating on his girlfriend. But, as superbly played by Michael B Jordan, he’s touchingly human, a young man striving to get his life on track.
Knowing what lies in store for him – foretold in the authentic mobile-phone footage that opens the film – lends poignancy to the most trivial of events – taking his infant daughter to kindergarten, preparing a birthday card for his mother – and reminds us that miscarriages of justice are also terrible personal tragedies.
Certificate 15. Runtime 85 mins. Director Ryan Coogler.
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