tek's rating:

Beyond the Lights (PG-13)
IMDb; Rotten Tomatoes; TV Tropes; Wikipedia
streaming sites: Amazon; FandangoNOW; Google Play; iTunes; Vudu

This came out in 2014, but I didn't see it until 2019 (on Valentine's Day). I really wasn't sure whether to file this under "drama" or "romantic." Ultimately I chose drama, because I just felt like the dramatic aspects of the movie were a bit more important to the story than the romantic aspects. But it was still a decent romance story. But the drama is just so heavy.

It begins with a woman named Macy Jean (Minnie Driver) taking her 10-year-old daughter, Noni, to a barber shop, before going to a talent competition. At the competition, Noni sings Nina Simone's "Blackbird." She's named first runner-up, which seems good enough for Noni, but Macy is furious. She believes her daughter deserved to win, and I'd have to agree with her. But I'd also have to say she takes her frustration too far, telling Noni to throw away her second place trophy.

The story then flashes forward to Noni as a young woman (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), with a very promising music career. Her first album is about to drop, and she's already collaborated on a few songs with a rapper called Kid Culprit (Machine Gun Kelly), who she's currently dating. The two of them win a Billboard award, and everything seems great. Then she goes back to her hotel room, and tells the cop who's standing guard outside her door, Kaz Nicol (Nate Parker), not to let anyone in after her. But when her mother, who is also her manager, shows up, she gets Kaz to let her in, and she discovers Noni sitting on the railing of her balcony, apparently about to commit suicide. Kaz runs in when he hears Macy screaming, and he tries to talk Noni out of it. She jumps, but he grabs her and pulls her back up. Later, Macy and Noni hold a press conference to announce that it was all just an accident caused by having too much to drink. And Kaz is forced to confirm that story, even though he hates lying. But there are lots of people in the press (particularly tabloids) who believe it was a suicide attempt, and they'll spend a lot of time throughout the movie hounding both Noni and Kaz for the truth.

We also learn that Kaz's father, David Nicol (Danny Glover) is a police captain, and he has plans for Kaz to become a politician. Kaz goes along with those plans, and while it seems like he'd be a very good politician (and I mean "good" in terms of both ability and character), it's not clear that it's what he truly wants for himself. So I definitely see a parallel between Kaz's relationship with his father and Noni's relationship with her mother. But I don't think David is as controlling or overbearing as Macy is. Anyway... Noni starts spending a lot of time with Kaz, and a romantic relationship begins to develop between them, especially after Noni breaks up with Kid. And the relationship helps Noni find the courage to take control of her life and her career, to do it her way instead of her mother's.

That's pretty much the gist of the plot. The acting is great all around, the characters are believable and sympathetic, and it's a pretty good story. And it's always nice to see an artist find their true voice.


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