It’s important to make films about racism, to talk about the issues that touch our hearts, make us angry and force us towards change. The stories we want to be heard are those that deserve to be told. Of course, you may note rightly, who are we to decide what story should be told and which one should not. However, what I saw in “American Son” broke my heart. Not only does it miss the point, but it also misleads the audience, provides a narrative that does not exist, setting a dangerous precedent many may follow, leaving the actual story that needed to see the day of light aside.
Jamal, son of Kendra Ellis-Conor (Kerry Washington) and Scott (Steven Pasquale), left home at 8 PM after having a heated discussion with his mother. Nine hours pass and there are no words from him, no phone calls, or text messages. His mother learns about a car accident that took place around 2 AM, therefore, she rushes herself to the police station trying to figure out what happened to her son. The father, a white man, arrives at the station as well try to find out what happened to their teenage son, who might have died at the hands of the police. As both await for answers from the authorities, Kendra begins questioning her existence in society and how she has been treated poorly due to racism or how her son is being seen by the others due to the color of his skin.
As soon as the film began, we find Kendra at the police station being interviewed b Officer Paul Larkin (Jeremy Jordan) who tries to be as nice as possible, if not patient with an already ready grieving mother. However, whether it’s anger or something else, Kendra seems to always mention her stature as a black woman and even looks strangely at her white husband, who said, “I prefer black (meant coffee)”. And that’s where the problem of the film begins (not sure if the same lines were written for the same play where Kerry Washington portrayed the same character) when the awfully written lines provide more issues than resolutions. For instance, we already know she was in an interracial marriage with Scott who really loved her. Never looked at the color of her skin, but rather appreciated for what and who she was.
However, the woman begins questioning even the officer’s intentions, not openly suggesting his biased attitude towards him, even though as a viewer, I never noticed that. Due to the given circumstances, it’s understandable why she is so nervous due to the disappearance of her son but all that she talked about in the entire film is being victimized for the color of her skin. All the lines she delivers are dangerous and that is the most disappointing part of the film while I had the best intentions to love the film, and I tried all the way till the end, but it still did not work.
When we meet Lieutenant, he clearly explains the situation as a black man who has already been a victim of racism. In fact, he also mentions that the car of her son was stopped by a black officer, which eliminated the issue of racism immediately. However, the film never suggests that but rather blames the police officer who seemed to have been fulfilling his duty. As I already mentioned, I tried my best to love the film and that’s why I made a choice to watch it in the first place due to my understanding of the continuous racial issue that occurs not only in America but around the world. But having seen what I’ve seen in “American Son”, it is clear that we are way behind from saying the right words, doing the right thing, and making a move forward towards the solution. But this film not only lacks one but gaslights the existing one making things worse when it was needed to be the other way around.