Title: Native Son
MPAA Rating: TV-MA
Director: Rashid Johnson
Starring: Ashton Sanders, Margaret Qualley, Nick Robinson
Runtime: 1 hr 44 mins
What It Is: Bigger Thomas (Sanders) is a young, intelligent black man living in Chicago. When he takes on a job as a chauffeur for a supremely wealthy white man. When he meets that man’s daughter Mary (Qualley) he has a task on his hands keeping tabs on her so that she and her wild card boyfriend Jan (Robinson) don’t do anything too stupid. When a tragedy befalls Bigger he’s makes one very VERY bad decision that leads to his whole new world falling apart.
What We Think: This was…a bit of a disappointment. I don’t know why but I had a ton of expectation following Sundance for this one. Especially with how fast HBO scooped it up. Instead, I really think this is a case of missed opportunity. Ashton Sanders is pretty fantastic here it really is just too bad the narrative fails his character so badly. Margaret Qualley and Nick Robinson are equally annoying, but that works for the characters they’re playing. It’s final third lets the whole thing done. This is a film full of sound and fury signifying nothing.
Our Grade: C+, While this is by no means a bad film there’s something to be said about how good this one could’ve been. Most of the films under Sundance’s NEXT program this year all suffered from subpar filmmaking. Films like Selah and the Spades exemplify that. Some may look at our review and ask why we’d have such an opinion when coming out of Sundance a lot of the buzz was positive…and honestly, we were just left unimpressed, and continually in a state of “meh”. Ashton Sanders astounds but it isn’t enough to keep this from mediocrity.