121 min - Drama

Review: Matt Mungle

It's been over 20 years since Kevin Costner brought us Dances with Wolves and Field of Dreams. His latest film, BLACK OR WHITE may be his proudest yet and one that he says will stand the test of time like the others. Even though he has aged a bit and is now playing a Grandfather and not Robin Hood he still hasn't lost the confidence and swagger that make him a strong on screen presence.

Elliot Anderson (Kevin Costner) has just lost his wife tragically and suddenly. He has little time to mourn until he is in a battle to retain custody of his bi-racial Granddaughter Eloise (Jillian Estell) who Elliot and his wife have raised since her birth. Eloise's paternal Grandmother Rowena (Octavia Spencer) thinks that Eloise needs to be with her. Elliot is a successful attorney who can offer Eloise the best education, neighborhood and safety. What Rowena offers is a large family and a culture that Eloise can benefit from. This is a dramatic film that puts a young girl in the middle of a heated battle.

Costner and Estell are a powerful on-screen duo and this young newcomer holds her own nicely with the seasoned Costner. Estell handles a lot of emotion and balances each perfectly.She has just lot her maternal grandmother, has never known her real parents, and now she sees the remaining two loved ones in a fight. The way she reacts to Elliot's pain and frustration is with compassion and love. That is a high hurdle for an actress of any age. The supporting cast of Spencer, Mpho Koaho - who gives a smart and funny performance as Eloise's tutor -, and Anthony Mackie deliver as well.

To say that Costner gives a strong performance isn't a surprise. There is nothing in this role that would be a stretch for him. There are nuances to his character that are branded with his signature style. He transitions from sadness to anger to a firm countenance. Although he feels the film will stand the test of time I would not expect fans to include this in their most memorable role list. Race relations is always a hot topic in our society and this film holds no punches. Elliot and Rowena respect each other but that is far as their relationship goes. The script is bold in its dialouge which ads depth to the film.

BLACK OR WHTE is rated Rated PG-13 for brief strong language, thematic material involving drug use and drinking, and for a fight. Though nothing is crude or offensive the themes and dialouge are maid for older viewers. Safe for those 15 and older and one that would certainly bring about open discussion. Many will blow this off as a puff piece that plays on human emotion and the race card. But it is more than that. Color aside this is a powerful and emotional story about the love of family. The telling would have been just as impactful without the racial component. I give it 3.5 out of 5 hugs. Though the characters may be soon forgotten the story and some of the important lines will not.


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