Saturday, July 27, 2013

"Fruitvale Station" - Review

“Fruitvale Station” – Review

I own an hour glass and when I first bought it several years ago, I do what everyone does who has ever owned one would do. I flipped it over to watch those perfectly tiny shaped grains of sand slowly filter through from the top glass receptacle to the bottom, wondering if it will take an actual hour to empty from the top; does it keep good time. Watching the true story of 22 year old Oscar Grant’s last 24 hours of life on New Year’s Eve reminded me of my hour glass, but not about time so much. I’ll come back to explain later.

Fruitvale Station, an actual Subway Station in Oakland, CA is the title to the film of Oscar’s story where in the first 120 seconds you see the actual Oscar Grant being filmed by a passenger from the train’s door with Oscar laying on the stations platform floor and two Oakland area police men kneeling over him in a bit of a struggle when you hear a single gun shot.  Actually what happens is Oscar is shot fatally and it at that point the film starts to reverse to it’s beginning of his last 24 hour of his life leading up to that tragic conclusion.

There is nothing profoundly unique about Oscar. You see him in various pedestrian situations through out the film; scenes where he appears to be for the most part a good and decent young man with a good heart, who loves his immediate family and who also loves his daughter and girl friend passionately. He also seems to be very personable and charming with a genuine desire to correct what even he recognizes as a chaotic path of poor decisions that some young men are prone to make early in their adult lives regardless of race.

Early in the film he comes to grip with these poor decisions he has made that have clearly hindered his ability to make progress in his early life, especially in those intimate and personal weight matters regarding his relationship with his girlfriend and their future together. But what uniquely shines out about Oscar’s story is largely for the benefit of the viewing audience. Watching this young man with all of his best intentions on that day was in fact a man living his last few hours of life like those tiny grains of sand in that hour glass mirroring the last of everything he will ever do or ever say in his brief life.

Like a laser to my consciousness I looked at the film uniquely through the prism of those grains of sand in that hour glass with each speck representative of the last time Oscar would have a conversation with his mother, the last time he kisses his daughter, the last time he says I love you, the last time he does a compassionate deed. And with that perspective in mind you have to ask that while Oscar did nothing wrong in his life that night, it still comes down to the theme of the seemly subtle steps we consciously and subconsciously make in our brief lives.

I won’t say too much about the pivotal scene on that station’s platform, clearly Oscar is needlessly shot and killed that night, but I could not stop wondering if just one person on that fateful night had reacted just a bit differently, if anyone including police officers had chosen another type of strength just for a moment to hit pause, to lower the temperature just a bit would Oscar still be alive today?. Would so many lives have not been devastated?

To me “Fruitvale Station” is a very good film about the choices we make; even seemingly insignificant choices should never be taken for granted as being meaningless. And while the rendering of the legal verdict to Oscar’s murder trial did have some comparisons to a recent high profile Florida murder trial, the larger aspects to his story and his last 24 hours of life did not. Oscar life and death was a stark reminder to making every effort to live and to move in the absolute right direction each and everyday even when it’s so, so hard and even when the rewards of those choices do not offer any of its reward immediately.

Oscar was more typical than not. He like some young men, sometimes, somewhere, on some occasions seem to struggle with an awkward juxtaposition dance that at moments in life, the actually living part in that moment he felt he was invincible; indestructible to all things and the consequences of his actions he took in the moment are no more than short term, ephemeral at best. Fruitvale Station hauntingly offers us the reverse to be true, that it is our choices, decisions, actions that can have an invincible lasting impact and its life itself by any general measure of time that is always all too brief.  

So just like the sand, I was reminded as cliché as it may sound, that every thing we do matters, all the time, everywhere, no matter what we say, who we say it to,  no matter who we love and no matter who professes to love us back, live life fully, but work to live it wisely.

3 – 3/4 Stars

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