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Fruitvale Station is the true day-in-the-life story of Oscar Grant, a young struggling father who was shot to death by a police officer in Oakland, California on New Year’s Day of 2009. Most film review writers would find a witty sentence to convey how moving the film is, I will state most simply that it is nothing short of heartbreaking. The whole film builds to create a character that is kind, compassionate, and under a lot of stress from responsibility. While the character wins the audience over with charm, there is a building anticipation of dread and doom leading up to a devastating finale of loss and regret. All of which is beautifully shot with mostly natural lighting and very simple yet intricate compositions.
Besides being the emotionally driven and politically oriented film it is; Fruitvale Station is also one of the best film debuts from a writer/director that I have ever seen. The talented individual who brought this film to life is 27 year old Ryan Coogler, a graduate student from the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. Growing up in the East Bay area north of Oakland, CA, Coogler was part of the community that was emotionally shocked by the murder of Oscar Grant by a police officer, which inspired him to write this screenplay about injustice and prejudice. Despite all of the sadness and melancholy of the film there is just as much love, tenderness and sense of community which is what makes the well-structured script so impactful. In an interview on the film Coogler stated that the scene where Oscar Grant is shot was filmed on location at the real station and the crew noticed that the bullet hole from the actual murder was still in the ground.
Aside from the fantastic direction and writing, the performances are also superb. Rising star Michael B. Jordan carries out the martyr-like role with sensitivity, compassion and anger. Oscar winner Octavia Spencer carries out her heart-wrenching role of Oscar’s mother with a competence equal to her award winning status; besides playing this key role she was also a major supporter in producing the film.
In our current period of cinema, where bland superhero movies or romantic comedies seem to be pumped out like a mindless conveyer belt; it is refreshing to see a beautiful film whose content is directed towards extreme social importance and humanist emphasis.