With the instant access to smartphones, videos of every day events ranging from toddler’s first steps to civil unrest in another country. When used in the right way, it can raise awareness of injustices and keep people accountable for their actions whether for good or bad. Holding people accountable is one good way to use it, especially if that person is in a position of power.
Fruitvale Station begins with a real cell phone footage of a the last seconds of the main character’s life. Just like last year’s Zero Dark Thirty where Bigelow added sound bits from the 9/11 tragegy, it instills the reality into the audience from the first frames, you grab their attention and you immediately get them into them emotionally into the movie.
We’re introduced to Oscar Grant (Michael B Jordan), a young man who is trying to do good after a rough past of drug dealing. He has a girlfriend Sophina (Melonie Diaz) and a daughter (Tatiana) to do right for. We get to know Oscar through his actions. It being New Year’s Eve and his mother’s birthday (Octavia Spencer), Oscar prepares for an evening devoted to her. Recently having lost his job at a grocery store, he fights back for it while picking up the seafood for the party. His past continues to get in the way of his happiness. Despite these setbacks, he trudges forward in order to build the life and be the person right for his girlfriend and daughter.
A small scene acts as both heavy-handed but effective foreshadowing. While filling up his gas tank a pitbull is hit by a reckless driver. After yelling at the driver who speeds off, Oscar picks up the pitbull as it dies in its arms. While this is surely inserted just to draw parallels, it is effective and draws comparison between the pitbull and Oscar. With pitbulls and black people there is this unjust stigma ingrained into society of hostility. This scene and movie advocates for the opposite and kinder side of the two.
The natural and unobtrusive directing by first-time director Ryan Coogler is only punctuated by the cast members. Michael B Jordan (Friday Night Lights, Chronicle) truly fleshes out this character with his dog-like bark and his gentleness. Octavia Spencer is that worried but determined mother who only cares for the well-being of her son. You can’t help but feel for her as the last scene passes.
There aren’t many movies out there where you feel just emotionally exhausted afterwards. With high adrenaline flicks tearing through the box office but leaving you as empty as you were when you arrived, Fruitvale Station does quite the opposite. The characters and their actions towards each other is a slice of real life drama that we can relate to. Your heart feels and breaks for them because you invested your time with them in their every action.
Fruitvale Station is a strong and respectful memorial for a man who shouldn’t be forgotten taken away by useless violence. Emotionally draining with rich and relatable characters, it’s one of the best movies of the year.