Director: Charles Stone III
Writer: Patrick Gilfillan
Cast: Viola Davis, Jennifer Lopez, Aml Ameen.
“What did I just watch?” This was the only thought I could muster as the end credits rolled at the conclusion of this drivel of a film. I had picked it because one of the blogs I follow mentioned Viola Davis’ performance in this film as a possible candidate for awards consideration this year, and so I pushed aside my usual rejection for anything containing J.Lo and decided to watch it. Wow, am I sorry and regret not listening to my instincts and sticking to my guns.
Davis plays the titular Lila, a grief-stricken woman who joins a support group for mothers whose children have died. Recently Lila’s son had been gunned down on the street, an innocent bystander in a shooting over drugs and turf amongst gang members. The police are not overly concerned with solving the case, especially because they already know what took place and are more worried about the big picture, disregarding Lila’s pain and her desire for justice under the law.
While attending the group, which is cartoonish and insulting with its overly melodramatic depiction of the bereaved mothers, Lila meets Eve, a mother who doesn’t buy into the psychobabble spewed by the lead therapist and immediately Lila gravitates towards Eve’s more cynical and no-nonsense attitude about the death of their respective children. Friendship is immediately formed, quickly devolving into complicit illegalities. The two women take matters into their own hands, and a movie about the grieving process becomes a vigilante revenge thriller.
In the third act I will not spoil a bizarre shift towards the supernatural, but let it be said that it comes out of nowhere but is predictable at the same time. It is maddening and infuriating. Viola Davis deserves better. She has consistently done a superior job, at times in thankless and sub-par movies or roles. No wonder she has moved to television where she can stretch and have fun with her role and get award recognition as well. The less said about Lopez, the better. The movie never really gains its footing, nor does it know what message it’s trying to impart: is it a discussion about the lack of help for people who’ve survived a trauma? Is it a commentary on the justice system? Is it a film about grief and madness? On the heels of Ferguson and the horrors that afflict black communities across the States is it a movie about how we disregard black lives and do not value them? I wish it had interacted with this last point more, as the catalyst for all the events is yet another story of a young unarmed black man killed (not by police in this film) and the resulting collective shrugging of the world around the mother crying for justice and attention. The movie stalls itself, never able to overcome its Lifetime-light focus on a twisted friendship between ladies who take matters in their own hands. I’m still not quite sure what I watched, but I won’t be spending much time trying to figure it out either.