Verdict: 3 / 5
Black or White is a film inspired by true events that explore racial turbulence amongst families when children are born mixed race. Writer and director Mike Binder obviously decided to shed some light on this controversial subject with the intent to expose the issue of racism in modern society and to instigate some food for thought.
Kevin Costner plays the role of Elliot Anderson, a high-profile lawyer who is grieving the death of his wife who died suddenly in a car accident. Amidst his grief Elliot is trying to maintain custody of his mixed-race grandchild Eloise (Jillian Estell). Elliot and his wife raised Eloise from birth when their 17-year-old daughter died during child birth. Eloise’s father, Reggie (Andre Holland) is a drug addict that is obviously in no state to look after his daughter even though he claims to be off the drugs. Reggie’s mother Rowena (Octavia Spencer) feels that Elliot should not be raising her granddaughter due to cultural differences and because Elliot has a drinking problem. Rowena is a successful black woman that looks after her extended family that believes Eloise should grow up with her own people. Elliot loves his granddaughter and despite Rowena’s intimidations he fights the battle to look after her. Elliot’s love for Eloise drives him to face his drinking problem in order to keep custody of her.
The film deals less with race and more about the heart of people. Rowena makes Elliot out to be a rich white raciest but in her heart she knows that Elliot is a good man. He may have his faults but so does she. Rowena can’t see past her son’s drug addiction and manipulative tricks. Her son is not stable enough to look after his own daughter, but she insists that he fights for custody of her. It’s good that the film did not portray Rowena and her family as a poor black family. If it did the whole story would be one sided. It was interesting to watch who would win custody at the end as each side of the family had a valid case. Overall the narrative is enticing however I feel it just scrapes the surface of the real issues within the family. The issues between Reggie and Elliot could have been explored more and Rowena’s motive for wanting custody of Eloise was not made clear. Lastly it seems that Rowena just decided to give up in the last court ruling which was not motivated.
Little Estelle gave a convincing performance and you can’t help but love her cute character. She obviously loved her grandfather very much and likewise Costner made it very easy for the audience to empathise with him as an alcoholic living in denial but trying to change for his grandchild. Despite the vast holes in the plot the ensemble cast gave noteworthy performances and the film is entertaining for what it’s worth.