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American Son - Netflix Film Review

Updated: Jun 27, 2020


Directed by #KennyLeon

Written by #ChristopherDemos-Brown


“Race is the child of racism, not the father” – Ta Nehisi Coates

American Son movie poster featuring Kerry Washington with her hand over her mouth and two men looking at each other in the background.
American Son movie poster

Directed by Kenny Leon, American Son is a film about a woman, Kendra (Kerry Washington) who reunites with her husband Scott, (Steven Pasquale) at a police station where they hope to get answers about their son Jamal, who has been reported missing.

Due to both Kendra and Scott being two different races, the film focuses on their points of view on what life is like for an African American boy to live in America. In the film the audience learns that as a mixed-race boy, Jamal struggles with identity issues. The audience gain an understanding of the relationship between Jamal and his father compared to Jamal and his mother who has more of an understanding around Jamal’s struggles.

American Son was created to make the audience understand what it is like for an African American boy to live in America, and to also understand the kind of issues that they go through such as police brutality, appearance, education and much more. The film is set in a police station, which the director felt was a useful and significant choice of location to discuss an important situation that has occurred for many years and is still occurring today. The film also shows that how a person’s social media posts can affect them, especially when being involved with the police.

Performance wise, Kerry Washington did an amazing job when portraying a stressed-out mother who is clearly afraid of the world because of the colour of her skin. The audience learns that Kendra is an intelligent lady and she knows her history, she even corrects her husband’s grammar a few times. Through her acting, the audience can feel Kendra’s pain, stress and anger. Kerry Washington uses strong facial expressions when portraying Kendra. Steven Pasquale did a brilliant job acting as a wealthy privileged man who refuses to understand the issues that his mixed-race son faces.

When watching American Son, the audience would find a few moments that would stand out to them. The first is the fact that Jamal is not physically present in the film, through the words of his parents, the audience would gain an understanding of Jamal’s character which can be shown through the way his father praises how Jamal was raised and how his mother explains Jamal’s struggles. The second moment is when Kendra walks out of the police room to go for a drink of water. The audience learn discover how old the building is as it is mentioned that the building was open during the segregation period, when Kendra walks over to the water fountain, the audience see’s two fountains, and a plaque on the wall, which is dedicated to “The Big 6”. The final moment is when both parents learn that Jamal may have been taken into custody, if this is true, why was his parents not taken to see him even though his is 18 years old.

The film portrays a great use of lighting, its not too dark and not too bright, but with the use of heavy rain and thunder storms in the background it enhances the effect of the film. Camera wise, when capturing a character’s facial expression, the back ground is usually blurred out, which is used on purpose for the audience to focus on the character.

Overall the film is realistic and worth the watch, it is based around an important situation that happens in real life, the characters mention real victims such as Eric Gunner. By watching the film, the audience may learn something new.



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