The sadly timely release of Sundance award-winner “Fruitvale Station” begins with the shocking real-life cell phone footage shot in a San Francisco subway station on New Year’s Eve 2008. A young black man named Oscar Grant was handcuffed and lying on the ground when he was shot and killed by a policeman.
We then go back in time to see how Grant (a star-making performance by Michael B. Jordan of “The Wire”) spent the last day of his life. First-time writer-director Ryan Coogler creates an intimate, documentary feeling to the story, candid in its portrayal of a young man who has made some mistakes (he was a drug dealer, he has served time in prison, he cheated on his girlfriend, he gets fired for being late). But, with a transcendent performance by Jordan, we see that Grant was a devoted son and father who wants very much to be the man his mother, girlfriend, and daughter deserve.
We follow him through the day, seeing him charmingly assist a woman at the grocery story by calling his grandmother to advise her on a recipe, celebrating at the birthday party for his mother (Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer), and defusing a tense situation with a store owner. And all that time, we know he will be dead in the earliest hours of 2009. By the time it happens, we are different people than we were the first time we saw him get shot. We care about Oscar in a way that will make it harder to jump to conclusions about a young black man ever again.
Parents should know that this film includes some strong language, sexual references and situations, drug dealing, and a shocking murder.
Family discussion: Why was Oscar Grant shot? Do you agree with the punishment for the man who shot him? How does this relate to the debate over the verdict in the George Zimmerman/Treyvon Martin case?
If you like this, try: Melonie Diaz in “Raising Victor Vargas”