BEYOND THE LIGHTS (Gina Prince-Bythewood). 116 minutes. Opens Friday (November 14). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NNN
She’s an English hip-hop artist on the verge of her big break. He’s a Los Angeles cop with political aspirations who stops her going over a hotel balcony. This being the movies, they’re instantly drawn to one another, but can these crazy kids make it work?
That’s the pitch for Beyond The Lights, a new romantic drama from Love & Basketball writer/director Gina Prince-Bythewood.
As in her beloved debut, Beyond The Lights is a love story about characters with three dimensions and compatible personalities here, each has been raised by a single parent devoted to their success.
For Noni (Belle’s Gugu Mbatha-Raw), it’s her controlling mother (Minnie Driver) for Kaz (Red Tails’ Nate Parker), it’s his cooler but no less determined dad (Danny Glover), who’s charted a path to the White House for his eminently respectable son.
But having established Noni and Kaz as complex, intelligent souls who are worthy of one another’s validation and love, Prince-Bythewood has to spend another hour and a half inventing increasingly silly obstacles to their happiness.
The film reminds us why straight-up romances are so few and far between these days: the genre depends on contrivance more than almost any other. But when the couple clicks, it still feels pretty damn good.