Review: Fruitvale Station

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05 Oct 14

Fruitvale Station tells the story of a heart wrenching real life event, from New Year’s Day 2009 in Oakland, CA. The story is a reconstructs the last 24hrs in the life of Oscar Grant, who was shot by police on the train platform after returning from celebrating the new year with his girlfriend and friends. After reports of a fight breaking out on the Bay Area Rapid Transit system, the police are called. When the train pulls in at Fruitvale Station, the police are waiting and pull a number of people, including Oscar, believed to be involved in the incident onto the platform and detain them. Emotions are running high, and Oscar is restrained on the floor. A shot is fired. The officer involved in the shooting claims he was reaching for his taser, but pulled his gun by accident… The incident caused both peaceful protest and violent riots, partly due to the fact that the whole thing was caught on camera by members of the public travelling that night.

Although knowing what happened in the incident may seem like a spoiler – writer-director Ryan Coogler actually opens the film showing some of the real footage of the incident – it’s not, as the movie is more about showing the tragedy of the event by looking at the life of the person involved. Oscar is by no means a saint. An ex-drug dealing con, who’s been cheating on his girlfriend/mother of his child, but also someone who’s trying to get his life back on track and do the right thing. Michael B. Jordan’s stunning performance as Oscar shows him as flawed person, but someone who is battling to change. The film shows the ups and downs that Oscar and his family have to deal with on a daily basis. The relationship with his girlfriend Sophina, played by Melonie Diaz, as she struggles to deal with this flawed person she has fallen in love with. Octavia Spencer plays Oscar’s long-suffering mother Wanda beautifully, as a strong, but gentle woman, who we see, both in flashback and during his final 24hrs, trying to help the son she loves make the right choices in life.

Fruitvale Station is a deeply moving portrait of an ordinary family, just trying to get by in the world, and a man just trying to turn that corner. The film has taken some criticism in the US press for overly romanising Grant’s nature, and that maybe true in a small part, but I think forgiveable. Which ever way you cut it, there was clearly no justification for the tragic event that took Oscar’s life.

Fruitvale Station is out on DVD and Blu-ray from tomomrrow (06/10/14), and available for digital download now.

9/10 – Deeply tragic and moving.