"more than just a love story, whilst that theme is present, it doesn’t pull focus"
Beyond the Lights is the story of Noni (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a talented singer/ song writer who, after winning an award, attempts suicide in her hotel room. But she’s saved by Kaz (Nate Parker), a young cop who takes a shine to her.
The film then precedes to take us behind the glitz and glamour of the music business and highlights a lot of what’s wrong with the industry.
Noni, with the help of Kaz, goes on a journey of discovery to find the courage to develop her own voice and break free to become the artist she was meant to be.
Beyond the Lights makes for uncomfortable viewing in the beginning - I think this was the point; to make you feel for Noni, and whilst she seemingly has everything, under the surface there is more troubling her than meets the eye. Seeing Noni descend into a broken shell of herself is hard to watch, and this vulnerability is played flawlessly by Mbatha-Raw, who is just incredible in the role.
Minnie Driver is fantastic as the overbearing mother of Noni, who seemingly is more interested in her daughter’s career than her wellbeing. However, she isn’t just a caricature, she’s just driven, and along the way has lost sight of what’s important.
The central relationship of Noni and Kaz is believable, with the chemistry between the two great to watch, and through the film you really root for these two.
Their journey takes them to Mexico where Noni transforms from vulnerable girl to someone finding her voice; and what a voice! Gugu Mbatha-Raw has an incredible singing voice, and coupled with the hauntingly beautiful lyrics of Nina Simone (with her own spin), makes for an incredible return to the stage.
Beyond the Lights is more than just a love story, whilst that genre theme is present, it doesn’t pull focus. Writer-Director Gina Prince-Bythewood has crafted a genuinely thoughtful and stunning film that, by the end, will warm your heart.