Noni (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is the music world's latest superstar, but the pressures of fame have her on the edge...until she meets Kaz (Nate Parker), a handsome young cop with political ambitions who's been assigned to protect her. Drawn to each other, Noni and Kaz fall fast and hard, despite the protests of Noni's mother (Oscar Nominee Minnie Driver) and Kaz's father (Danny Glover). But Kaz's love might be the missing piece that gives Noni the courage to find her own voice and break free to become the artist she was meant to be.
More than just a romantic drama film for the ladies, Beyond the Lights gives a great illustration of the horror and loss of identity that comes with the music industry. While at times each of these themes take something away from the other, it was a valiant effort, and I give it a well-deserved four out of five stars.
The film follows Noni. She is a young up-and-coming singer with a mother that feels right in Noni being exploited as long as it is her doing it. Pressuring her daughter every step of the way, Noni finally snaps, and attempts suicide by jumping off an apartment balcony. But it is now that Kaz enters her life. He is a young cop with political aspirations, who grabs her in the nick of time. Together they embark on a journey to discover themselves, and what the future really holds for them.
When you are dealing with a film that has two strong themes (romance and serious industry faults), it is a difficult thing to ensure both are properly portrayed. For the most part, Beyond the Lights does a very good job at this. In my opinion, as I don’t find myself enraptured by the waves of romance flicks, I like that this film doesn’t use that as an instant fix for every problem. It is also commendable for this film to focus on depression, as it can really affect anyone, and it is important for people to know that it is nothing to be ashamed of. As the saying goes: you are not weak, you have just been strong for too long.
The story could have easily turned this film into an over-dramatic soap opera, but it was the beautiful and sincere acting work of Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Nate Parker that makes it bearable. Neither of the leads have extensive film resumes (starting in 2005 and 2004 respectively), but they work like old pros, and maintain an interesting chemistry together.
Over the last few years, films that focus on African American characters have taken over Hollywood. While this has mostly been welcomed, there is also the unfortunate group that only look for its faults. This film, while allowing the characters to be who they are and representations of their cultures, they were also highly relatable. It is not often that this is achieved.
The film has already been nominated for numerous major awards, and an official soundtrack has already proven successful. Online and in-print reviews (both by critics and general audiences) have also been predominately positive.
Beyond the Lights has obvious similarities to The Bodyguard (Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner), but it took these themes and made them current. It was not a perfect film, but it was very enjoyable and emotional. I would recommend this film to anyone, and it definitely deserves four out of five stars.