‘Night Catches Us’ – the message echoes long after the credits roll

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Night Catches Us

Directed by Tanya Hamilton

Screenplay by Tanya Hamilton

2010, USA

Night Catches Us provides an ironically timeless theme: giving governing of a country (in this case The United States) back to the people of the country. America was created by secessionists and rebels and yet in this film they recall how they are thwarted at every turn.

Writer/director Tanya Hamilton takes us back to 1970’s Philadelphia, as ex-Black Panther Marcus Washington (played by Anthony Mackie) returns home on the day of his father’s funeral. Patricia Wilson (played by Kerry Washington) shows us that even when we have moved on from a relationship, the unresolved emotions and true love realties tug at our hearts for answers, peace and resolution. Her precociously pithy daughter, Iris (played by Jamara Griffen), gives a refreshing performance reminding us how kids are giant sponges that suck up all the knowledge of internal personal relationships.

While the story embraces the reality of consequences, pain and violence, those realities are hardly the only narrative forces at work. Issues of family, faith and class distinction propel the superb storytelling with momentum that moves at a steady pace, without being jolted by intense inciting events.  While Night Catches Us deals with violence, remarkably it is not overshadowed by that same violence.

Cinematographer David Tumblety delivers interesting and consistently seamless frames. The use of the long shot is adeptly done which more cinematographers should attempt. The exemplary melding together of stock footage and pictures by editors John Chimples and Alfonso Goncalves helps to establish the historical framework. The film’s connection to the time period feels authentic, while avoiding any and all 1970’s movie clichés. Marcus provides a realistically portrayal of a man wrestling with not only who he is, but who he will become. The film subtly reveals that all true change begins from within and very often erupts in the process, due to circumstance, frustration and the realization of life’s inequalities.

This film’s message echoes long after the credits have rolled: “Never ever give up. not on yourself, not on your friends, not on your dreams.”

L.C. Cragg

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