What we’re talking about when we talk about race depends on our individual perspectives, but it is not the talking that matters. What truly matters is how willing we are to listen to those other perspectives. During the Toronto International Film Festival, I found myself challenged by Mike Binder and his take on race relations presented in Black or White because, in theory, this was exactly what I’ve been waiting for from Hollywood. Here was a white writer/director stepping up to deliver his own personal assessment of our fractured racial dynamics.
In addition, Binder gets a significant boost from Kevin Costner, who settles in as Elliot Anderson, a recent widower pummeled by the loss of his wife. Elliot, thanks to his supportive and caring spouse, had enjoyed more of a backseat role in the guardianship of his granddaughter Eloise (Jillian Estell), a precocious young girl. Her mother, the Andersons’ daughter, died early on, but was lost to her parents before then due to her drug addiction and the dangerous choices she made with Eloise’s father Reggie (André Holland), an African-American man who Elliot blames for his daughter’s decline. For all his success in life, Elliot has become an epic drunk who is just able to keep himself on the upright side of life and the community. And yet, I wonder why we could not see a bit more of the sympathetic side of Reggie, the same-old sad representation of black fatherhood. (R) Grade: C-