Fruitvale Station tells us a devastatingly true story with such power and honesty that it’s hard not to get emotional. With fantastic performances, especially from lead Michael B Jordan as Oscar, it’s definitely one of the best films of 2013.
Set on New Year’s Day in 2009, the story centers on an incident involving Oscar Grant at Fruitvale Station with the film opening with actual cell phone footage of the incident. The footage is scary enough but it’s not until everything is put into context that it becomes so damaging and heartbreaking. The film runs through the 24 hours prior to the event as we see Oscar’s life with his friends, enemies and family, including great performances from his girlfriend Sophina (Melonie Diaz) and Mother (Octavia Spencer).
The biggest highlight of Fruitvale Station for me is the honest character building. Oscar isn’t painted as a perfect choirboy, instead we see he is a real human being, with problems and struggles just like everyone else. We see that he’s low on money, has cheated on his girlfriend in the past and at times can be aggressive, but we also see how caring he is, always sacrificing himself for his family. I feel it gives us a better emotional connection with him and Michael B Jordan certainly does a great job in giving the character a strong personality.
While the film opens with the scene from 24 hours later, you quickly forget about that and get caught up in the character of Oscar. His life feels so relatable, with his emotions and hardships drawing strong empathy. This makes it all the more devastating towards the end of the film.
Director Ryan Coogler also brings some innovative film-making to the fore. Little details such as text popping up on the screen when he dials a number or texts someone is great as we don’t lose the emotion or context of the scene but still get to see who he is dialing or what is being texted. The handheld camera makes an appearance but it’s not overused and for once in a film, is extremely relevant to the scene.
The emotion that Fruitvale Station provokes is devastating. There’s a sense of dread looming in late scenes and it’s all due to the character of Oscar and his family. By making him seem so human, with such a real performance, it creates an emotional connection like no other. A must see film. A
Fruitvale Station is playing the Melbourne International Film Festival on Wednesday August 7.