Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Black Nativity

posted by Nell Minow
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for thematic material, language, and a menacing situation
Profanity:Some strong language
Nudity/Sex:References to teen pregnancy
Alcohol/Drugs:References to substance abuse
Violence/Scariness:Teenager threatens someone with a gun, references to violence
Diversity Issues:A theme of the movie
Movie Release Date:November 27, 2013

Black-Nativity-by-true-Colors-Theatre-Company-photo-courtesy-of-Soul-of-AmericaThe poet Langston Hughes wrote a play called “Black Nativity,” a joyous African-American retelling of the story of the birth of Jesus with gospel music, and it has become a holiday perennial. Now it has been adapted by writer/director Kasi Lemmons (“Eve’s Bayou”) with a framing present-day story of a prodigal daughter, estranged from her parents for 16 years, brought back home at Christmas as “Black Nativity” is being performed in her father’s church.

Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson plays Naima, a single mother in Baltimore who has lost her job and is trying everything she can think of to keep her home.  But even with two jobs, she and her 15-year-old son Langston (17-year-old Jacob Latimore), named for the poet, are about to be evicted.  Niama has no other options left.  She puts Langston on a bus to New York to see the grandparents he has never met, knowing nothing about them or the cause of their estrangement.

Langston is hurt, lost, and angry.  He is frustrated that he cannot do more to help his mother and determined to find a way to get her the money she needs to keep their home.  Things go badly when his bag is taken by a kid as soon as he gets off the bus and he is arrested trying to return a man’s wallet because the police think he is trying to steal it.  In jail, he meets Loot (Tyrese Gibson), who jeeringly calls him “Lunch Money” and makes Langston feel powerless and disrespected.

His grandfather, Reverend Cornell Cobbs (Forest Whitaker), is formal and reserved.  His grandmother, Aretha (Angela Bassett) is affectionate but clearly in pain over the past and afraid of being hurt again.  Langston will do anything to feel that he is taking control of what is happening to him so he can return home.

Impressionistically told, with songs that serve as monologues, the movie becomes more powerful when Cornell’s church stages a gorgeous production of “Black Nativity” and Langston nods off to have a gospel-inspired dream that features Nas and, as an angel with white hair sticking up like a dandelion ready to make a wish, Mary J. Blige.  When Langston sneaks out of the service in a desperate attempt to get the money, it leads to a confrontation revealing in ways he could not anticipate.  The concluding scenes of redemption and reunion are tender and transcendent.  

Parents should know that the storyline concerns foreclosure and eviction, family estrangement, law-breaking, teen pregnancy, and abandonment.  A teenager uses a gun.

Family discussion:  Why didn’t Langston’s family want to tell him the truth? What did the watch symbolize to Cornell?  What did we learn from Langston’s dream?

If you like this, try: the poetry of Langston Hughes



Previous Posts

List: YA Books About Coming Out and Same-Sex Relationships
My good friend Sandie is my go-to for YA literature as she is not only very knowledgeable but also very insightful, with superb taste. As a part of her series of books that explore issues of diversity, understanding, and identity, she has put together a list of the best YA books that explore LGBT i

posted 4:41:34pm Nov. 23, 2014 | read full post »

Gortimer Gibbons: Life on Normal Street
Amazon Prime's new series for families is a delight. Gortimer Gibbons: Life on Normal Street is the story of three middle school-age friends and the mysteries they investigate on Normal Street are anything but normal. It has fun and fantasy but mostly it has friendship. It's a perfect choice for

posted 3:58:21pm Nov. 23, 2014 | read full post »

Classic Hollywood Memorabilia Auction Tomorrow from Bonhams/TCM
Bonhams and Turner Classic Movies have joined together again for another auction of classic Hollywood memorabilia, with treasures from the golden age of movie-making, including the piano Sam plays "As

posted 8:00:36am Nov. 23, 2014 | read full post »

Little Hope Was Arson
In a small East Texas community "with a church on every corner," 10 churches were burned. One church showed the Christian film "Fireproof" one night and showed that it was far from fireproof itself

posted 8:40:04pm Nov. 22, 2014 | read full post »

Docudrama about Handel's Messiah on BYUtv November 27, 2014
BYUtv has produced a new docudrama, Handel’s Messiah, premiering November 27, 2014, about the world’s most popular and renowned choral work by one of the leading composers of the Baroque era, George Frideric Handel. The docudrama, narrated by Emmy® and Golden Globe®-winning actress Jane Seymo

posted 8:00:38am Nov. 22, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.