Selma Review: A Dream Realized

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I generally try to ignore my fellow moviegoers when sitting in the theater, but that was impossible for Selma. Audience members would get up and walk out dabbing their eyes, only to come back in to continue watching history unfold before them on the screen.

It’s hard not to get wrapped up in it all. Director Ava DuVernay has molded a striking historical drama for the ages, presenting the events of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches with a brutal honesty, one that is unfortunately still relevant today.

I’m not sure if Selma would have hit as hard without the recent string of violence stretching from Ferguson, MI to New York City. With that in mind, the film carries the extra weight of showing both progress and where we still have to go. Frankly, it’s better for it.

David Oyelowo plays Martin Luther King, Jr. with a power that has been missing from our political figures as of late. The performances goes beyond imitation, however, ensuring that this Dr. King is human and not a god. Going with a relatively unknown actor was a smart choice, as it takes away the awkward start where the audience separates this story from the actor’s larger body of work.

The supporting cast does a fine job as well, most notably Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King, who adds an intimate layer to Dr. King’s personal life during this fight for equality.

But the best thing about Selma is that it is in fact just one fight, not the fight. By focusing in on this particular march, the smaller issues that Dr. King faced get their proper due. By showing him overcoming those, while also not being a film about his tragic death, this film becomes a celebration and not a cry fest. Believe me, there are enough things to sob about in these two hours that you’ll be happy this film ends on a moment of achievement. Sure, the film drags in a few spots, but what we’re left with is an uplifting film that shows us the best of humanity at a time when the news seems to be showing us the worst. It reinvigorates hope for Dr. King’s dream, which seems to have gotten lost in the crossfire. Grade: A-

By Matt Dougherty

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