‘Beyond The Lights’ Review Roundup: Critics Love Gugu Mbatha-Raw
Beyond the Lights, written and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, stars rising actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw as hip-hop and R&B singer Noni.
In Beyond the Lights, British entertainer Noni has become a global sensation, but her successes have come at a personal cost. With the pressure building, Noni’s career is threatened. When she meets cop and aspiring politician Kaz Nicol, Noni becomes inspired to be her own artist and finds a renewed love for what she does. Despite protests from their friends and families, the two give in to their love to the benefit of their careers.
‘Beyond The Lights’ Recap
Critics, wary of the premise of the discouraged love story and the feel-good concept of a young woman chasing her dreams, were surprised by the poignant and affecting movie that Prince-Bythewood put together. The cast – which includes Minni Driver, Nate Parker and Danny Glover – received ample praise, though it was Mbatha-Raw’s performance that has reviewers believing another film star has been made.
“It’s being sold as a rather sensitive, definitely serious film about two twentysomethings who have to move beyond their parents’ dreams to find their own. But at its own heart? It’s a soap opera — “The Bodyguard” without the interracial romance or big musical score.The story’s even got a VH1-ready title, roman-a-clef show-biz angles, bad dialogue, gratuitous pecs-and-violence and plotting that perches precariously on the edge of ridiculous. If it were any cheesier, they could pour it on macaroni.” – Stephen Whitty, The Star-Ledger
“It sounds like chick-flick hell: A stage mother (Minnie Driver) pushes her Rihanna-like daughter so hard that the kid almost dives off a hotel balcony before her first album drops. In Bodyguard style, a decent cop shows up to save her. To everyone’s surprise, especially mine, the clichés yield a remarkably engrossing love story with the wit to know truth from twaddle. Writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood, who performed similar magic with Love & Basketball (2000), knows her way around the business of show and showing off.” – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
“It’s a story that, under different management, might veer into melodrama: Noni, who has a troubled relationship with her young single mother struggles to manage her fame; she’s pulled into a world in which her image is sexualized, her relationships are stage-managed and her creativity stifled. Prince-Bythewood comments on this, but keeps the focus on the two lovers. Kaz isn’t quite what we expect — he’s got political ambitions and his father warns him that “this one ain’t First Lady material” — but he’s sweet, kind and capable of whipping off his shirt extremely quickly. “Beyond the Lights” is the kind of movie that we don’t see often enough: a warmhearted story that leaves its characters — and its audience — happy.” – Moira Macdonald, Seattle Times
“Everyone in “Beyond the Lights” brings admirable seriousness to otherwise stock roles, but it would be for naught without Mbatha-Raw’s honesty and intensity, which result in a star turn as compelling as any this year. The fact that “Beyond the Lights” is so effective at both celebrating and critiquing extravagance and artifice can be credited to Prince-Bythewood’s shrewd understanding of the highly pitched cinematic vernacular she’s working with. Even more crucially, when it came time to cast the transformational figure at her fable’s center, she found the real thing.” – Ann Hornaday, Washington Post
Beyond the Lights, rated PG-13, is currently in theaters.