A rising young musician (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) falls into a passionate love affair with the cop assigned to protect her (Nate Parker), in this moving and inspirational romance from writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love & Basketball).
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Where in the world was a nomination for Gugu Mbatha-Raw? An incredible performance that surpassed the very fine 'Belle' from the previous year. The film itself lacks in the scripting department but has fine production values and strong performances including those of Nate Parker and Minnie Driver. Strong soundtrack and great costuming by Sandra Hernandez. A major star making turn that deserved better results.
This film shouldn't work, but it does. Credit Gugu Mbatha-Raw's star-making performance. Credit Gina Prince-Bythewood's (LOVE & BASKETBALL) gift for smart, sophisticated romance. Credit whatever you want - BEYOND THE LIGHTS is phenomenal.
On paper, the film sounds like a made for TV movie, about a rising young singer finding her true voice, beyond the glamour. On screen, it’s a terrific movie; you cannot turn your eyes from the film, and from its lead actress, Gugu Mbatha-Raw. And the song? Especially the Rita Ora song, Grateful.
While parts of the film lagged and felt unnecessary (the extended cuddling sequences in Mexico), the message about female pop stardom and its various pressures and tortures is extremely relevant, and Gugu did a great job bringing genuine emotion to her role. The mother-daughter relationship plotline is the most compelling and best executed, though I found the romance story itself charming and engaging.
Star becomes suffocated by stardom, gets rescued by an outsider. Except in Prince-Blythewood's version, the girl is every bit of a match for her rescuer. If anything the woman she is needs only a nudge from her male hero to take things in her own hands. Mbatha-Raw's performance is as fierce as her purple hair (Driver's no slouch either), while the hyperstylized performance segments strike a nerve. 3.5 stars