Fruitvale Station

RATED-(R)-85- MIN-2013

                                  Fruitvale Station is a heartbreaking tale beautifully told

Escalation, racial profiling, and the outcome of an incident that went horribly wrong are the subject matter of the stunning and heartbreaking film: (Fruitvale Station) from first-time writer-director: (Ryan Coogler), who also grew up in the area. You can watch this on Netflix. The true tragic story of the murder of Oscar Grant (a riveting Michael B Jordon) at the Fruitvale train station by BART police officer, who shot him in the back, as he lay face down on the platform, will have you spellbound as you watch it. How did this happen? Why did they shoot this helpless father of a four-year-old daughter as he lay on the ground, while the friends he was with, and countless passengers watched?

This was a huge national story when it happened, as several people on the train filmed the incident. The beginning of the movie shows the footage, and it is shocking, as you see, plain as day, the event which was captured by early cell phone video. This sets a very foreboding mood for the film, as you know the tragic outcome, and as you watch the 24 hours prior, you wonder, like all with hindsight, what could have been done to stop this from happening and ending Oscar’s life.

Coogler does not try to say that Oscar was a saint. He was not. He had spent time in jail for drug charges, cheated on his girlfriend, the mother of his daughter Sophina ( Melonie Diaz), and has a bit of a temper. He is a flawed man, with past transgressions, trying his best to stay on the straight and narrow, take care of his daughter, whom he adores, and make some kind of life with his girlfriend. In other words, he’s like all of us.

What the director does show as Oscar goes through his day, is the struggle that this young black man goes through with little opportunity in the bay area community he lives in. The temptation of relatively “easy money” when it comes to selling drugs, instead of working a shitty paying job, is a very compelling option for many in areas of economic strife, as is the shield of anger and toughness one must present to live in such a volatile neighborhood.

This is where Oscar lived, and his loving mother: Wanda, Played by the wonderful ( Octavia Spencer) prays that her son will finally try and do the right thing. You get the sense that she sees what may be coming. I am sure many parents in affected urban areas will especially relate to Wanda’s plight. A parent always worries themselves sick about their children, and even more so in places like this. 

As you watch Oscar play with his daughter, try to get his job back at the market, and try to stay away from bad decisions, you will equally be routing for another outcome other than the one that is coming, and dreading the moment when he and his friends finally get on the train New Year's eve, heading to the horrible event that ended his life. I had seen Jordon in the small hit (Chronicle) and for me, he stood out from the other cast members, as a very charming, engaging, and likable actor. He does a fine job of showing many times with just an expression, the struggles that Oscar is dealing with in his mind.

I have read some reviews, that criticize the film for glossing over some of Oscar’s criminal history; that he was not such the innocent young man the film may suggest. Two things came to mind when I read these things...One: The video clearly shows the police officer shoot him in the back, while lying down on the platform, with his hands behind his back. Two: Would this have had the same tragic outcome if Oscar were white?

I have no idea of the answer to the second question, but this brilliant piece of filmmaking makes you examine the incident again and makes you think about it for a long time after.

That’s important.

You should see this movie.

watch the trailer: