American Son stars Kerry Washington, Steven Pasquale, Jeremy Jordan, and Eugene Lee. These are the only people that are actually seen the entire time and most of what is revealed is done via verbal communication rather than visual presentation.
The plot is pretty straightforward – the life of a mother is turned upside down when her teenage black son goes missing. She notifies her husband who left them and together they try to get to the bottom of the dreadful occurrence while piecing together tiny bits of information being given to them by the police in order to understand the reason behind their son’s action.
Kerry Washington is Kendra, an outspoken black American mother whose goal of finding her missing son often results in her lashing out at everyone in sight. She has the mentality that everything always boils down to race. Her son is black (actually, he is half-caste, as his father is Caucasian) and she raised him to fit into the society, not conforming to the stereotyped black male kid in America.
The missing kid’s name is Jamal. He is an 18-year-old who drives out without letting his mum (who is his sole custodian) know where he is heading. We get to know more about him through the conversation his parents have. His father and mother have two very different perspectives about life; one stands for the way the typical white man thinks, while the other represents the mentality of the average black folk.
Jamal’s father’s name is Scott and he is an Irish-born American who is uncomfortable with his son’s association with the black culture and community. He walked out on his family months ago and is now living with a white woman – something that Kendra (Washington) loathes above all else.
This is a missing person’s movie like you’ve never seen it before and the action takes place in the interior of a waiting room. The movie will bore those who don’t have an appreciation for character and plot-driven stories. There are no visual spectacles here to keep you entertained; just raw and undiluted human emotions.
Kendra lives with the constant fear of her son being harmed or possibly killed by a society that is largely intolerant to blacks. She raised her son to see the good in the world, not the evil. She takes the racism/black victim mentality too far sometimes and vents her frustrations on the young white cop, Paul (Jeremy Jordan), who attends to her and her husband.
Despite the fact that the movie is a serious drama, the script is well-written, with little doses of humor thrown in to make it not seem monotonous. The lexicon is impressive as well and the scriptwriter deserves a pat on the back. Everything happens in real-time and once the viewer gets lost in the plot, there is no going back.
There is incredible acting on display – the actors know that a lot depends on every word and gesture and so they put everything they’ve got to in getting the job done.
There is never a shortage of punch lines and several intervals of witty banter as every character delivers his or her lines in impeccable fashion.
The never-ending rain is used to show the tense atmosphere and lurking danger. The arrival of each new individual could confirm a mother’s worst fears and leading lady Kerry Washington channels her character’s inner struggles like no man’s business. It’s an award-deserving performance and she fits the role like a glove.
The movie propels the viewer to think from the standpoint of the blacks who have suffered because of their skin colour, and the whites who are mostly judged for every action taken against the blacks (even when the blacks are the ones at fault). The result is the dawning realization that as long as the world exists, there will never be an end to the scourge known as racism.
This is a story you will want to see to the end (for those who have the patience) and mothers especially have a lot to learn from this as they play a pivotal role in the psychological development of the child.
I was surprised and disappointed to see mixed reviews for this movie. If we can’t give kudos to stories that pull at the heartstrings like this one, then why are we human? For me, this is another win for Netflix.