Glitz, glamour, and fame can be a drug worse than any chemical substance or emotional attachment. Some people handle it well, only making it a minor aspect of their lives. Others, however, suffocate in it. The pressure might as well be like a millstone around their necks! Now take this feeling and enter Noni Jean’s (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) world in “Beyond The Lights.” Noni is a sensational singer and rising star on the fast track to global success. She has three platinum singles and is expected to break records. She even has a highly anticipated album soon to drop. However, all that pales in comparison to the emptiness she feels inside and her overbearing mother/manager (Minnie Driver). After winning her first Billboard Music Award, what should be a celebratory event becomes a distressing one when she tries to commit suicide by jumping from a balcony. Luckily she is saved by a cop working security for her, Kaz Nicol (Nate Parker). As she dangles from the balcony he says three of the sweetest and simplest words ever, “I see you…” Before she can even recover from the event she is forced to lie to the media about what has happened and enlists Kaz’s aide. He reluctantly complies and then distances himself from her, finding the limelight too bright. However, there is a real bond between the two of them and he finds himself drawn back to her. They instantly become what each other need in life. He becomes her hero, and she becomes an outlet to his straight laced, pre-planned life. Nevertheless, the couple have to contend with their respective demons and the media at large. Through it all Noni and Kaz learn “Beyond The Light” and the swirling drama that follows you have to be true to yourself. After all the truth is the only solid ground to stand on.
Gina Prince-Bythewood is an amazing director, and this has to be one of the best films I have ever see. In a Q & A led by HOT 107.9’s Gary with The T last night ,she revealed the formation of the film and how detailed she had to be to get it out. The film is near and dear to her heart as it reflects aspects of her personal life of being biracial and a difficult relationship with her birth mother. She adds how difficult it was to get the film out, but never gave up. The film is a masterpiece in many ways surpassing her previous hit, “Love & Basketball.” How she captures the downward, hypersexual spiral of today’s stars in thrilling and chilling, yet captivating. In fact Noni’s character is somewhat modeled after Rihanna. This film actually marked Gugu Mbatha-Raza’s first big film. “Belle” was actually filmed after this project, but released before it. Gugu is beautiful and beyond talented. There is an Oscar in this young woman’s future for sure. Surprisingly, she actually sings all her songs in the film, which by the way has an amazing soundtrack produced by The Dream. Her cover of Nina Simone’s “Blackbird” will touch your soul. Nate Parker is as amazing in this film as he is in all his previous works. However, as Kaz he was stiffer and colder. As emotional and impetuous as Noni was, he was equally as stonewall.
It is riveting to see Black love on screen! The chemistry between Gugu and Nate is real; the latter attested to that in last night’s Q & A. He says Gugu is easy to like and very kind. Nevertheless, this is a film I will be going back to see again and again in theaters on November 14th. Quality films, especially those with people of color must have the numbers to thrive and be reproduced. Check out the trailer to “Beyond The Lights” below, check it out in theaters everywhere next month!