Beloved wields a power few films do. From the opening scene, Beloved (Touchstone Pictures) firmly grips the audience and never relinquishes its hold, lingering in viewers’ minds long after the final credits roll.
Summarizing the thought-provoking plot in a few meager paragraphs is impossible. Based on Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, Beloved contains complexities and intricacies beyond the scope of any summary. The details of the plot, however, are somewhat inconsequential in comparison to the impact of the film.
Set in rural Ohio in 1873, Beloved focuses on Sethe (Oprah Winfrey), a woman who defines the meaning of courage. As she tries to shield her daughter from her horrifying life as a slave, Sethe realizes the past does not simply die. Through her actions and her interactions with others, the audience learns an unforgettable lesson.
As Sethe, Winfrey gives an impeccable performance. She performs with touching honesty and openness. Her convincing portrayal allows the audience to forget she is Oprah, the talk-show host. During the film’s three hours, she is only Sethe.
Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon) plays Paul D., who knew Sethe when she was a slave and returns to her life 18 years later. Starring mostly in comedies in recent years, Glover once again shows himself to be a genuine dramatic actor. He, like Winfrey, forces the audience to see him only as the character he plays in the movie.
Kimberly Elise (Set It Off) and Thandie Newton (Jefferson in Paris) also give electrifying performances. Elise plays Sethe’s daughter Denver. Her acting appears effortless, but the screen radiates with her captivating confidence. Newton plays the challenging title role of Beloved. Newton undauntedly tackles the obstacles and gives a scintillating performance.
Each actor, even those with the smallest roles, contributes to the overall on-screen chemistry and is part of Beloved‘s success. Beah Richards (Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner) portrays Sethe’s deceased mother-in-law, Baby Suggs. Through flashbacks, the audience sees Baby Suggs delivering inspiring sermons from a tree stump. Richards appears in only a few scenes but leaves a lasting impression. Her role is essential to conveying Beloved‘s message, which she reveals exquisitely.
The quality of the film goes beyond a beautiful script and talented, enthralling actors. Award-winning director Jonathan Demme, with his wondrous eye, uses unique and mesmerizing camera angles. While his presence can be seen in the film, he never dominates the film or makes it a showcase of his talents. Instead, he uses his talent to transform a book full of meaningful words to a film overflowing with powerful, indelible scenes.
The combination of talented actors, an ingenious director and thought-provoking script always produce a wonderful film. Beloved takes these elements and moves them to the next level, developing each one of them individually and forming a single entity.
In the end, Beloved proves more than a film. It is an experience that undoubtedly will change the viewer.
Beloved opens in theaters Friday.