Thursday, December 10, 2020

Movie with Abe: Alex Wheatle

Alex Wheatle
Directed by Steve McQueen
Released December 11, 2020 (Amazon)

A person cannot control the circumstances under which they are born and how they are raised. Those factors undeniably influence who they are and the choices they make. Witnessing the consequences of other people’s decisions shapes the way people go about their own lives, teaching them what happens when particular paths are followed and how seemingly predestined fates may or may not be changeable. Escaping a destructive cycle can be very challenging with countless obstacles and the expectations of those who can’t understand someone’s perspective threatening to prevent it from being truly lasting.

Alex Wheatle (Sheyi Cole) grows up in an institutional care home where he is continually treated poorly due in large part to the fact that he is surrounded only by white people. When he grows up, he begins to discover himself in Brixton, immersing himself in the music world and establishing a reputation for himself as a DJ. When he is arrested for his part in the Brixton Uprising of 1981, Alex confronts a part of himself he hasn’t yet tapped into, connecting with literature that will inspire a prolific career as an esteemed author.

This film is the fourth in an anthology series called “Small Axe” directed by Steve McQueen, best known for the Oscar-winning “12 Years a Slave.” At times, it feels like “Mangrove,” the first installment, incorporating intense moments from the Brixton Uprising that are difficult to shake. But this is a far more intimate story, featuring a protagonist who never felt like he was fully a part of any community but managed to make his own connections to each, which in turn informed the knowledge he built to share with the rest of the world.

Alex is certainly a worthwhile main character, one who takes a good deal of abuse throughout his early life before facing a moment of despair in prison and adjusting his outlook after receiving a reality check from his cellmate. This film runs just sixty-five minutes, incorporating a good deal of content that traces Alex’s development from a tormented but good-natured child into a free spirit who decides that he wants to do something with the potential to inspire others. It’s not the most riveting or engaging of the anthology series thus far, but it does serve as a decent biography of someone who was definitely not set up for success but chose to utilize that which had threatened to derail his life and turn it into a positive outlet.


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