Mangrove is soulful! A film about oppression, injustice, and the will to fight for your human rights to community & life free of persecution… and guess what? It’s based on a true story that doesn’t take place in the US. Though true, don’t celebrate. The film hits too close to home and proves that abuse of power runs in the veins of humans and that acts like this are doomed to continue if we don’t learn from history. Class is in session with Mangrove.
The first of five Steve McQueen films in the Small Axe series; Mangrove tells the true story of a Caribbean restaurant in the heart of Notting Hill that serves as a lively community base for intellectuals, activists and local immigrants from the West Indies missing a taste from home. The Mangrove and its owner, Frank Crichlow, become subjected to a reign of racist attacks from the Metropolitan Police which causes the community to unite and march the streets in peaceful protest. This brings down the wrath of the local government on them causing Frank and eight other men and women to be wrongfully arrested and charged with incitement to riot; beginning a highly publicized trial that would determine the future of the country.
This is Steve McQueen’s best film to date! Having not loved Lovers Rock, one of the other installments in Small Axe, I walked into this with diminished expectations that were soon surpassed. The film begins and causes you to immediately fall in love with the location and characters. Being from the Caribbean myself, there’s a small chance that I’m slightly biased in my opinion, but I doubt that. The film is beautiful and the story is gripping. McQueen truly put his foot in this one, as does Frank in his curry, showing us once again his deep love for this group of people and everything they’ve had to endure!
Shabier Kirchner is the Director of Photography for Small Axe and after seeing this I understand why McQueen chose to stick with him for all of the films in this collection. His style favors McQueen’s as much as the mood of these untold stories.
Our cast is stunning! Standouts for me, however, are Shaun Parkes & our future Black Panther(?) Letitia Wright. Both of these talented actors fully committed to their respective roles, surely understanding the importance of depicting them well. Shaun plays Frank Crichlow, the owner of the Mangrove. A man with a complicated past, Frank struggles with his desire to run a clean and legal restaurant that serves as a second home to the members of the community that favor food on the spicier side. Parkes balances Frank’s struggles exceptionally well. Wanting to provide this for his community but feeling powerless against the racist oppression of the local police.
Wright shines as Altheia Jones-Lecointe, the leader of the local chapter of the Black Panthers. She manages to portray the affectionate poise the screenplay demanded while also showing what a strong and passionate activist she was. Unable to help aching for Frank’s situation, knowing the importance of the restaurant in the community. She flexes her acting ability here and proves she’s one to look out for. Speaking of, assuming Amazon secures/secured a limited release for this, I am placing her AND Shaun Parkes in the Oscar conversation. Truly exceptional performances worthy of being in the talks. I’m also placing Mangrove in the Best Picture category. A bit early, I know, but that should be a testament to how good this film is.
Mangrove is a beautiful piece of cinema people will be discussing at length this year and one that I will surely be revisiting. The film ends with a powerful message we shouldn’t forget. Change doesn’t happen over night. It is slow and gradual. So slow, in fact, that sometimes we can’t wait for it. Sometimes we fight and fight, inching our way forward just to be knocked back again. It weighs heavy and yet we cannot stop fighting injustice and oppression. We have to go until we can’t and then… we pass the baton to the ones who can go on. The ones still fighting for another inch.
Born in Puerto Rico but raised in a combination of the island, Boston and upstate New York. This guy’s accent shifts depending on his mood, as does his sense of style. If you don’t understand him sometimes, don’t feel bad, neither do we.
Having studied film in Florida, with a focus on writing and directing, and having worked on many projects of all sizes and scope, Raul has a well rounded understanding of cinema. He is also a huge fan of American Football and believes Tom Brady to be the indisputable G.O.A.T.