Melodrama for Obama generation

2009-08-24 00:00

I APPROACHED the viewing of Not Easily Broken with a degree of trepidation. It had no big-name stars, a director I didn’t recognise, no flashy marketing or fanfare and what appeared to be a low-key concept of a marriage in trouble. Was this to be another potboiler in the vein of the dismal recent film Obsessed? Thankfully, this was not the case as the film delivers some stellar performances and a tightly structured script.

As a genre, one might term the film an African-American male melodrama. It is a trend that appears to be emerging in response to the superficial rendition of black male Americans as dysfunctional and superficial.

The protagonist Dave (Morris Chestnut) is not interested in bling and chicks. Rather he prefers to drive his beat-up old truck and is yearning to have a child of his own. His wife Clarice (Taraji P. Henson), a successful estate agent, has different ideas though, and fears that having a child might curtail her career. Herein lies the seeds of their gradual estrangement, exacerbated by a car accident that leaves her wheelchair-bound.

Dave, trapped in his world and bound by his commitment to his vows, buries himself in the coaching of his little league baseball team. Unable to express himself, he finds himself growing closer to his wife’s physiotherapist and her son. The fact that she is white raises the sceptre of the stereotypical white-woman man- stealer, but one of the film’s strengths is the sensitivity with which it handles racial issues. Dave expresses the view that our primary focus should not be on race but rather our humanity. Yes, this is a melodrama for the Obama generation.

The film is not perfect, with some contrived plot points, but it maintains its narrative thrust and is likely to appeal to older audiences who have dealt with the trials and tribulations of marriage. In the end, It’s a simple tale told well.

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