Score = 5/5
Review by: Kisho Wolfe
Logline: Sometimes a pause button is just what the doctor ordered.
I’m going to start out by praising the director/writer, Gina Prince-Bythewood. I’ve been a long-time fan of hers ever since she dropped Love & Basketball. Her major motion picture directing list isn’t a mile long, but what she lacks in quantity, she more than quadruples in quality; and you can’t really be upset at that.
Her directing style is something many drama/romance professionals should take note of. She always does a phenomenal job of capturing the essence of each main character’s background and the overall atmosphere of a movie. Her movies always give you that sense of “being there,” and for me, that’s a heavy point. I want to lose myself in the story and feel like I’m going through whatever is happening on the screen.
Noni (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is a young up and coming “it” girl in the music business and is right on the bubble of super stardom. All she needs is that award winning album release to catapult her to the next level. Of course, the pressure of success and an overbearing mother/manager (Minnie Driver) tends to create a few speed bumps on the road. She also has the burning desire to be her own artist rather than the artist others want her to be, which weighs heavily on her shoulders
Kaz (Nate Parker) is a young police officer moving up the ranks and following in his father’s footsteps. He’s on the path of
politics and his father (Danny Glover) isn’t too thrilled about his son’s current romantic interest having the potential of derailing his future. Kaz sees Noni’s dilemma, or better yet, understands her in depth while others can only grasp the surface. He has no choice, but to follow his instincts and lend her his strength in her hour of unsteadiness. Of course he’s also smitten by her. He’s a man of morals and isn’t one to turn a blind eye to things he disapproves of. He has to make it right.
This movie runs at such a great pace that you don’t even notice it’s over 2 hour run time. Each seen is crafted in a way that you remain interested. Once the initial big event happens early on, you’re hooked in as the love story unfolds and we see our heroine blossom from a caged black bird to one that is flying free. Even though it seems this girl has it all, we root for her throughout the entire movie and cheer for her to finally stop trying to appease others and find herself in the process.
The acting was on point for everyone in the movie, which boosted the experience up a few notches. Gugu and Nate have great on-screen chemistry which sells the love story. Minnie delivers a nice performance as the mother who pushes her daughter to the brink. Even the guy playing Kid Culprit (Machine Gun Kelly, don’t worry, I haven’t heard of him either, but he must have some kind of rapping chops if Diddy signed him a few years ago) does pretty well. Although, I’m not so sure I can call a rapper acting as a rapper, true acting so…
Love, escapism, self-discovery and heroism are great themes, and all of them are represented in Beyond the Lights. Reality happening behind the scenes is inevitable in all aspects of life. It always seems to be the accent point of anyone in the public’s eye thanks to the media’s hungry search for dirt. This movie does an excellent job of taking us through one woman’s journey on a path to spread her wings with the help of her very own personal hero by her side. Any movie that has me itching to hit the replay button as soon as it’s over is definitely a good sign.