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Toronto Black Film Festival Review: “Knucklehead” (2015) ★★★


Mental disorder can be controlled at a certain stage, or in a certain environment. But if that person happens to live in a dysfunctional family, then you must expect nothing, but its significant development. What happens to Langston in “Knucklehead” is sad, however, that does not change the reflection of reality we sometimes see after we watch a movie. Ben Bowman’s film may not be perfect, or hardly can be called a masterpiece, however, he achieves what he needed to in order to talk to the audience. In the beginning, it appears that the film loses its pace, but quickly recovers when the picture becomes clearer for us.

Langston suffers from an incurable development disorder. He sees people, imagines things, and easily allows himself to be mislead. In a tragic accident, his brother Julian loses his life, after he takes a bullet from his unstable girlfriend. The tragedy could have been prevented if Langston would not have interfered in an argument that took place on the streets of Brooklyn. After that, a man starts looking for a solution that will help him to gain his mental excellence for good. Despite having a great sign of intelligence and rich imagination, our hero goes from one pharmacy to another for prescription, believing that a certain combination of medication can cure him.

Alfre Woodard, who plays Langston’s mother, Sheila, perhaps appears to the viewer more like a villain, who abuses her son every time she gets a chance. Even though her anger is understandable sometimes, when she mourns the loss of her son in her own way, but that does not justify her abusive behavior towards her mentally sick son, who within a second can turn into evil, if required. The scene where Sheila uses her method of questioning Langston is painful to watch. She seems to forget about her son’s well-being and makes things worse and worse without even realizing that probably she could be the main reason behind her son’s severe health issues.

In conclusion, Knucklehead is a solid drama about mental disorder, its aftermath, and the desperation of one man, whose condition allows him to see the world the way we would never be able to observe. It is also about a mother and son relationship from a negative perspective, which is what triggers Langston to sometimes lose control over himself. This film certainly deserves attention. You may forget about it afterwards, but not its subject, which is always relevant.


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