The much heralded Fruitvale Station about life and death of Oscar Grant is like a punch to your stomach. I knew going in what was going to happen but when the events of that early morning New Year’s Eve unfolded onscreen, I still couldn’t help gasping out loud.
Michael B. Jordan (The Wire, Friday Night Lights) is Oscar Grant, an affable but misguided young man with a little daughter Tatiana (Ariana Neal) and a girlfriend Sophina (Melonie Diaz) he’d like to marry. He’s not focused and recently lost his job working at the supermarket. But he’s a loving and caring father trying to find his way in life. Everyone in Oscar’s life worries about him. Only Oscar thinks everything is going to be alright.
Ryan Coogler’s film focuses on his last day of life, imagining what he might have done, from celebrating his mother’s birthday (Octavia Spencer) to helping out strangers. After a get-together at his mother’s and the clock nears midnight on New Year’s Eve 2008, Oscar, Sophina and his friends head over to San Francisco to see the fireworks. However, the ride home brings back the past in an ugly way leading to a confrontation with the BART police on the platform.
These scenes were extremely difficult to watch knowing what comes next. In fact, each time the BART train loomed ominously in the background, I felt the dread pool in my stomach. From the beginning the train foreshadows what lies ahead. As many of you know by now, this film does not have a happy ending. Knowing it doesn’t make it any easier.
Coogler’s debut film is astonishingly real and has impacted audiences from Sundance to Cannes and is being touted for a Best Actor Oscar nomination for Michael B. Jordan. Jordan embodies Grant completely, giving a peek into the man he might have become had he lived. I was moved to tears by this film (the scenes with Octavia Spencer will break you down). This film will fill you with deep despair that these kinds of incidents are prevalent in this day and age.
But what is different about Oscar Grant’s story is that it does remain as a story hidden away on Page 14 of a newspaper but thanks to the cell phone footage of the horrified passengers on the BART train and this film, his story can be told so that we can never forget. Never ever.
Written and directed by Ryan Coogler; Cinematography by Rachel Morrison; Editing by Claudia Castello and Michael P. Shawver; Music by Ludwig Goransson.