Film Review: “Black or White” (2014)


Does it matter whether you are in a good or bad mood? Whether you like coffee or prefer tea? Whether you are a slim or fat person? What if you’re black or white? None of these matters when it comes to human nature. Despite your mood or color and preferences, all that matters is who you are. The film “Black or White” offers an incredible story with two different viewpoints, where no one else but you can choose a color. By saying ‘color’ I do not necessarily mean skin color, but rather refer to the person’s soul that may be darkened by drug or alcohol abuse. But, again, it is up to you which side to choose.

The grieving widower Elliot Anderson (Kevin Costner) still cannot overcome loss of his most beloved ones – his mother, his loving wife and his teenage daughter. Being left alone, he has to take care of his granddaughter – Eloise (Jillian Estell), who he has helped raise her entire life. But this is easier said than done, as Eloise’s paternal grandmother Rowena (Octavia Spencer) draws Elliot into a custody battle over the child. Rowena wants to raise her in a regular and loving black family and believes that Elliot is trying to keep this from happening.

Written and directed by Mike Binder, “Black or White” begins in a slow pace. The viewer should pay extra attention to the dialogue not to miss the point of the scene. From the very beginning Binder takes an unexpected jump from scene to scene and pushes the viewer in the middle of a very sensitive subject matter, where one cannot define which side to take. However, once we get to know what has really happened to Elliot, and how he has lost his loved ones – especially his daughter, we start to feel sorry for him and even justify his alcohol addiction.

Saying that, Costner’s character is not really an alcoholic, rather a person who wants to somehow forget his pain and Rowena’s entering the scene does not help his case at all. She seems to be a loving and caring person, while also very determined about her goals and plan – to protect her granddaughter Eloise and let her know about her other – black family. And all of a sudden you disappear with all the characters and are caught in the center of a custody battle over a little girl, who does not mind staying with her grandfather. Everything changes for everyone, when the real father – Reggie Davis (Andre Holland) appears – a drug addict, who seems has not cleaned himself of drugs before trying to claim his rights over Eloise.

It’s hard to define or to even describe “Black or White”, because it is done so masterfully and emotionally, that the length of the film (121 minutes) does not bother you much, if not at all. Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer share a unique and incomparable on-screen chemistry, which simply cannot leave any viewer indifferent. Even though this film is not meant to be funny, you will find yourself laughing throughout it due to cleverly written dialogues and superb performance delivered by the lead actors – Costner and Spencer.

In conclusion, it is worth underlining that “Black or White” does not bring up any racial issues and keeps the viewer focused on the subject matter. Fortunately, Binder makes this film in such way, where the meaning of being black or white remains as a comparison not to human skin, but rather to the nature, behavior or acceptance of certain situations. And also explains very well that every family has its own black and white side, meaning – good or bad.  It teaches an excellent lesson – it does not matter what society you belong to, whether you’re wealthy or poor, black or white – it’s all about who you are inside. Having a different skin color was never important and never should be and such comparisons as ‘black or white’ could easily destroy our sensitive society.

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