Review by Dan Skip Allen
Mangrove is the first in a six-film series from Amazon Prime. These films will be focusing on the West Indies community's experience in London and Great Britain. Each film is directed by Academy Award-winner Steve McQueen, notable for directing the 2014 Best Picture-winning film 12 Years a Slave.
Mangrove is a restaurant in West London owned and operated by Frank Crichlow (Shaun Parkes). It's an establishment that the local Jamaican community in London frequent. The problem is the local police department has it in for Frank, his friends, and the Mangrove. It has become a target for PC Frank Pulley (Sam Spruell). This has garnered the ire of other local Jamacains in this area of London. They decide to do a peaceful demonstration in the form of a march.
This is a true story based on events back in 1970 about the Mangrove Nine. It will get comparisons to a similar film, The Trial of the Chicago 7, which was also released this year. These comparisons are warranted because the films have similar tones and subject matter. Both films are about groups of people that have been unjustly arrested and subjected to a long drawn out trial to defend their good names and reputations. But that's where the similarities between these films end.
These people consist of family men and women who just want to be treated like people in their new home. Like any men and women, they want to live their lives in peace, but racial tensions of the times refuse to let this happen. Steve McQueen got this time and place correct from the hairstyles and clothes to the cars and aesthetics of buildings and so forth. This helped get me into the film right away. Period piece films need to get all of these aspects right, and McQueen succeeds.
This film has a big cast of characters too numerous to name, but a few do stand out besides the couple I already mentioned. Altheia Jones (Letitia Wright of Black Panther fame), Darcus Howe (Malachi Kirby), and Barbara Beese (Roshenda Sandall) are all supporting characters in this story. They all have their time to shine in that aspect. They add their vibe and intensity to the film and it blends seamlessly to the overall story the director is trying to tell.
Even though this film is something similar to what we've seen before, it tells an interesting and fascinating story. I didn't know about it before watching this film. That's always a plus going into a new movie. The cast does a fine job, as well as director Steve McQueen. Everything is in place for this film to tell this new story. This was an entertaining first installment of the Small Axe anthology.
Mangrove is now streaming on Amazon Prime. New installments of Small Axe release on Fridays.