Movie Review: Black or White (2015) – A realistic portrayal of a custody battle

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Usually, I’m not a big one for parental custody movies. I might be the one person on the face of the earth that didn’t like War of the Roses or Losing Isaiah. But I think in this case, I’m willing to make an exception, simply due to my deep, abiding love for Kevin Costner.

This is a parental custody movie with a twist. Successful attorney Elliot Anderson (Kevin Costner) is a new widower who has just lost his wife in a car crash. Complicating matters is the fact that he has been raising his bi-racial granddaughter Eloise ever since her mother, his daughter, died in child birth. Conflict abounds when Rowena (Octavia Spencer) insists that custody be granted to Eloise’s father, her drug addicted son Reggie (Andre Holland). Elliot isn’t interested, especially seeing he blames Reggie for the death of his daughter. This starts a family feud that leads to a knock down drag out custody battle.

One thing I really, really like about this movie is no one is an outright villain. Elliot is stubborn and unable to forgive. Rowena wants to be part of her granddaughter’s life, but refuses to see what a mess her son is and how dangerous that could be for Eloise. Reggie is a crack addict that Elliot just can’t forgive, even though he faces his own addiction problems himself. This is a realistic portrayal of a custody battle. Both sides have their strong points and no one person is an evil villain. Despite the title, this argument is not one that is black or white.

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Another thing I liked was that the movie didn’t strictly focus on the racial difference. They weren’t ignored, but they weren’t the central part of the story. Instead, the story was based on each family thinking they could provide a better home for little Eloise. Race was mentioned, but unlike in Losing Isaiah, they didn’t make it the central focus of the argument. Instead, it showed both the good and the bad of each side of the family. Elliot might have been a privileged man, but his home was huge and empty and he used booze to mask his problems. Rowena offered a huge family and community, but she also lived in a rough neighborhood where the pampered Eloise wouldn’t necessarily feel comfortable, and she turned a blind eye to her son’s very serious problems, likely enabling him even more.

Eloise was actually portrayed like a little kid. She didn’t spew ‘wise beyond her years’ wisdom and life lessons at every turn. Instead, she was a happy little girl who was genuinely enjoying the attention she got from all sides of her family. It was easy to see why the families each wanted custody of her.

All in all, I think it was very well done. It was hardly perfect, and some of the additions seemed unnecessary. Like the math tutor who’s some kind of super genius…and also lost his entire family when his village was attacked in his home land. I get that they wanted to put in a positive portrayal of a person who lived in poverty, but the tutor was a bit too on the nose. They might as well have given him wings and a halo.

Costner’s depiction of an alcoholic wasn’t particularly good either. That could have used some work. But in general, this was a good movie and might possibly be the first custody battle movie that I actually liked.

WE GAVE IT: 4 Stars – Watch the Official Trailer and Official Movie Poster below!

4 stars


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