Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler, 2013)

Earnestly recreating the final day in the life of one Oscar Grant, Fruitvale Station is an immediately and relentlessly stirring portrait of said individual, offering us an unbiased glimpse behind the curtain as he bounces around attempting to get a jump-start on his New Year’s resolution. Having spent time in prison one year prior, Oscar’s vow to himself and his loved ones to turn over a new leaf rings authentic, the film remaining admirably unbiased as the tragic immediacy of life is simultaneously chronicled.

What with the obviousness of a civil rights scandal staring us dead in the face at frequent intervals, Coogler’s deft ability to sidestep favoritism helps paint Oscar as uniquely affected individual – a 22-year-old product of his environment, dealing drugs to make a quick buck if only to support his girlfriend and young daughter. Splicing the troubled aspects of his life together with the good, Fruitvale Station is an astonishingly well-rounded character drama that rings frighteningly bittersweet as images of impending tragedy linger perpetually in our minds.

While it’s easy to shrug the film off as ordinary given its topical if exceedingly emotional simplicity, Fruitvale Station is anything but as Michael B. Jordan’s passionate turn remains above and beyond the year’s absolute best. Alternately deprecating tragic violence and celebrating the memory of the all-too-young central subject, Ryan Coogler’s feature-length debut is fiercely atypical in its depiction of true events. Evoking a level of crushing distress within me I’ve rarely felt while watching anything, Fruitvale Station is an artfully constructed cinematic triumph that’s worthy of every inch of praise.


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