Black or White (2014) Kevin Costner, Octavia Spencer, Jillian Estell, Bill Burr, Mpho Koaho, Anthony Mackie, André Holland, Gillian Jacobs Movie Review

Black or White (2014)   4/54/54/54/54/5

Kevin Costner in Black or White (2014)

It's Not Just Black or White

When his wife died Elliott Anderson (Kevin Costner - 3 Days to Kill) found himself caring for Eloise (Jillian Estell), his granddaughter, who his wife had looked after ever since their daughter died during child birth. But having not had time to really grieve Elliott starts each day with a drink and another follows when ever problems arise to the point he has hired someone to drive and help him deal with his days. And problems do arise as Eloise's paternal grandmother, Rowena (Octavia Spencer - The Help), wants custody and not only calls on her brother, Jeremiah (Anthony Mackie - Captain America: The Winter Soldier), a corporate lawyer, to represent her but she will force Eloise's drug addict father, Reggie (André Holland), to help.

On first glance, when I read that "Black or White" featured a battle between grandparents over the custody of their bi-racial granddaughter I immediately thought of the TV movie "The Color of Love: Jacey's Story" which had already covered the same theme. But "Black or White" is different, it is a movie which is beautifully layered to make it not just another movie which deals with race issues but looks at hurt and buried feelings. And it is beautifully acted with Kevin Costner turning in a performance so beautifully weathered that Elliott Anderson doesn't feel like a movie character but a bloke you might work with.

Octavia Spencer in Black or White (2014)

Now I said that "Black or White" is a layered movie and there is a lot going on. You may think at the heart of the story would be the custody battle when in truth it is Elliott Anderson and his drinking, his need to deal with the pain he has pent up, including deep feelings of anger towards Reggie. But we also see how desperate Rowena is to do right by her granddaughter that she is blinkered to her son's short comings. And on top of that we do have the race angle as Jeremiah pushes that side in the custody case which draws a powerful response from Elliott which mixes pent up frustration with years of hurt and some buried racism which comes out in the heat of the moment, highlighting that nothing is ever just black or white. The beautiful thing is "Black or White" is not a complex movie but it is one which nicely digs beneath the layers you usually get in these types of movies and brings the deeper issues to the surface on a more personal level.

Now I have already mentioned Kevin Costner and it has to be said that his performance in "Black or White" is one of the best he has delivered in many a years and makes Elliott a hugely textured and real character right down to those buried feelings. But at the same time Octavia Spencer is first rate as Rowena bringing a mix of maternal instinct to the role but with that typical slice of sass which gives Rowena an almost comical element once in a while especially in some of the courtroom scenes. But it gives "Black or White" the levity it needs yet also makes Rowena an honest and warm character yet like everyone in this movie, not without her flaws.

What this all boils down to is that I could go on about "Black or White" because there is a lot which could be said about this movie but the best thing I can say is that it is such a beautifully rich movie it is one which needs to be watched more than once to appreciate and fully engage with the depth.