Native Son

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"The story that shocked the country."
  • PG
  • 1986
  • 1 hr 51 min
  • 6.0  (626)

Native Son is a 1986 film adaptation of Richard Wright's novel of the same name, directed by Jerrold Freedman. The movie follows the story of Bigger Thomas, a young black man living in poverty in Chicago's South Side during the 1930s, who is hired to work as a chauffeur for a wealthy white family. Victor Love portrays Bigger Thomas, a character who grapples with feelings of anger, frustration, and disillusionment as he navigates living in a society that continues to dehumanize him and his fellow black Americans. As he begins working for the wealthy Dalton family, Bigger is filled with resentment towards his white employers and their patronizing attitude towards him. Despite his initial attempts to keep a low profile and stay invisible in their household, Bigger is ultimately confronted with the reality of his situation and begins to behave recklessly, driving a wedge between himself and Mary Dalton, played by Elizabeth McGovern.

Matt Dillon plays the role of Jan, Mary's communist boyfriend, who befriends Bigger and tries to open up his eyes to the political and social injustices that he faces on a daily basis. Jan's relationship with Mary becomes complicated, as Bigger woefully misconstrues Jan's intentions, leading to a series of catastrophic events that take place over the course of the movie.

Native Son is a gripping tale of a black man's struggles in America during the 1930s. The film captures both the internal and external conflicts that Bigger experiences, as he battles between his desire to be understood and his intense feelings of anger and resentment towards a society that treats him as less than human. The portrayal of Bigger as a sympathetic and human figure is one of the film's key strengths, as audiences can easily understand his plight and relate to his frustration and helplessness.

Victor Love delivers an intense and emotional performance as Bigger Thomas, perfectly capturing the character's turmoil and inner turmoil. Matt Dillon's portrayal of Jan is equally impressive, as he brings both charm and nuance to the role. Elizabeth McGovern does a decent job as Mary Dalton, but her character does not quite receive the same amount of attention and detail as the two male leads.

One of the movie's most significant aspects is its attention to detail towards the period setting, as the film immerses viewers in the political and cultural climate of the time. From the overt racism to the subtle micro-aggressions that Bigger Thomas experiences, the movie shows that the systemic oppression and marginalization of black Americans were deeply ingrained in American society during the 1930s.

The film's pacing can, at times, feel slow, but this allows audiences plenty of time to absorb the details and emotional weight of Bigger's story. Jerrold Freedman's direction is solid, bringing a powerful sense of gravitas to the film's most intense moments. The movie's climactic scene will leave viewers on edge until the very end, as the fate of Bigger and the other characters hangs precariously in the balance.

In conclusion, Native Son is a powerful and moving film that highlights the ongoing struggles of black Americans in America. The movie's powerful performances and attention to detail bring Bigger Thomas's story to life, making it one of the most memorable portrayals of the character on screen. Despite its slow pacing, the film's intense emotion and sharp social commentary make it a must-watch for anyone interested in exploring the history of systemic oppression in America.

Native Son is a 1986 drama with a runtime of 1 hour and 51 minutes. It has received moderate reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 6.0.

Native Son
Where to Watch Native Son
Native Son is available to watch free on Kanopy. It's also available to stream, download on demand at . Some platforms allow you to rent Native Son for a limited time or purchase the movie and download it to your device.
  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 51 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    6.0  (626)