This is the true story of Oscar, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident who wakes up on the morning of December 31, 2008 and feels something in the air. Not sure what it is, he takes it as a sign to get a head start on his resolutions: being a better son to his mother, whose birthday falls on New Year’s Eve, being a better partner to his girlfriend, who he hasn’t been completely honest with as of late, and being a better father to T, their beautiful 4 year old daughter. He starts out well, but as the day goes on, he realizes that change is not going to come easy. He crosses paths with friends, family, and strangers, each exchange showing us that there is much more to Oscar than meets the eye. But it would be his final encounter of the day, with police officers at the Fruitvale BART station that would shake the Bay Area to its very core, and cause the entire nation to be witnesses to the story of Oscar Grant.
Reviews for Fruitvale Station have been largely positive. Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter called it “a compelling debut” and “a powerful dramatic feature film”. He also praised the lead performances stating, “As Oscar, Jordan at moments gives off vibes of a very young Denzel Washington in the way he combines gentleness and toughness; he effortlessly draws the viewer in toward him. Diaz is vibrant as his patient and loyal girlfriend, while Spencer brings her gravitas to the proceedings as his stalwart mother.”
In his Sundance festival wrap up, critic Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times said of Fruitvale Station, “Made with assurance and quiet emotion, this unexpectedly devastating drama based on the real life 2009 shooting of an unarmed young black man at an Oakland Bay Area Transit Station impressed everyone as the work of an exceptional filmmaker.”
In a more mixed review, Geoff Berkshire of Variety called it “a well-intentioned attempt to put a human face on the tragic headlines surrounding Oscar Grant.” Though he praised Michael B. Jordan’s performance, he critiqued the “relentlessly positive portrayal” of the film’s subject: “Best viewed as an ode to victim’s rights, Fruitvale forgoes nuanced drama for heart-tugging, head-shaking and rabble-rousing.”