Film review: Fruitvale Station

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Fruitvale Station PosterReviewed by: Krista Tanuwibawa

Edited by: Danielle McGee

Film: Fruitvale Station
Ryan Coogler
Running Time:
 97 min
Year of Release:

“Every step brings you closer to the edge”… of tears.

Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station is foreshadowed by a shaky and highly-pixelated mobile phone video footage of an innocent man being shot by transport authorities at a train station, witnessed by a rather confused and riotous crowd. The visual documentation was not unlike those that media broadcasters would use to accompany a news story. In fact, it probably was used as part of a news broadcast. Based on real events taking place in Oakland, California in 2009, the film explores the personal character of the victim, Oscar Grant, and his life preceding his undeserved fate at Fruitvale Station.

Grant (Michael B. Jordan) is a man with flaws (a stubborn temper, a history of infidelity, drug use) and has been served to time in a penitentiary. Unemployed, fathering a pre-school daughter outside of marriage, and speaking with a vocabulary of frequent curses, it might be easy to judge the protagonist as a ne’er-do-well hooligan and assume negative stereotypes of young black American men. However, Coogler clearly establishes Grant as a man on a journey of repentance. His compassionate and loving soul is apparent through his relationships with his family, his girlfriend, his friends, and his willingness to help others in trouble. His contrition and determination to become a better person and a role model for his daughter shows the raw humanness of his character; what we are meant to relate and empathise with.

Anticipating the unfortunate fate of a character that we are made to like is never a pleasant experience. However, Coogler’s directorial debut is brilliant in reaching beyond the shallow news headlines to deliver an emotionally moving narrative, offering a compelling vision into the reality of Grant’s life, particularly in his last hours. Deserving of mention are the powerhouse performances by lead actors Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz and Octavia Spencer (which induced the whole theatre to teary sniffles). Fruitvale Station sparks conversation about the faults and injustices of law enforcement in America, violence in modern society and the unforgiving, and somewhat random, nature of life.

If you’re up for a gritty contemporary drama, this is a film for you.

Fruitvale Station starts screening at Luna Leederville on November 7, 2013.