“American Son” Movie Review

Story posted November 10, 2019 in Arts & Entertainment by Emily Mugno.

“American Son,” a Netflix movie that premiered on Nov. 1, tells a powerful story that puts the viewer in the shoes of each character. Kerry Washington and Steven Pasquale play the roles of parents to a son who is never seen throughout the movie—he is only a topic of discussion. 

Washington’s character, Kendra Ellis-Connor, plays an African-American mother with a white FBI agent for a husband named Scott. The son, Jamal, who is referenced throughout the movie but never seen, seems to be the model son who scored superbly on his SATs, rarely got in trouble and committed to the prestigious West Point.

The movie begins in what seems to be a police station waiting room with an overwhelmed Kendra, who talks to Officer Paul Larkin, a newbie to the police force. The reason why Connor is there is unclear until she speaks to Larkin (played by Jeremy Jordan), claiming that she wants her missing son to be found. Larkin doesn’t have many answers for her other than that she should wait for Lieutenant John Stokes for further information. The inability to find answers causes much frustration for Kendra. She holds her own halfway through the film until her husband Scott arrives at the police station, also demanding answers.

The movie touches on the sensitive topics of racism, police brutality, and the realism behind it all present in America today. Washington’s character makes it clear to the white officer and her husband that they have no idea what it’s like to be an African-American in a society like the one that is present. Her paranoia is real, especially as the mother to an interracial son who she just wants to be accepted by society. Once Lieutenant Stokes, played by Eugene Lee, arrives to speak with Kendra, he serves her a slice of honesty as an African-American man in the force who has seen it all.

“American Son” only has four roles, which is quite impressive, considering how much each actor has to do in order to keep the movie afloat. The movie also takes place in just one location, the waiting room at the police academy, which is an accomplishment in itself as the movie keeps the viewer engaged despite very little movement in setting. This is due to the fact that Washington and Pasquale are genuinely talented actors who know how to carry a movie with the emotion they bring to the screen.  Boredom is never a concern.

Director Kenny Leon did a fantastic job casting, as all four actors have such powerful force in their delivery. The runtime of the movie, an hour and a half, is acceptable due to the single, ongoing plot. “Americn Son” is an educational movie as well, as the viewer can see perspectives of both the black female and the white male.

One of the few flaws in this movie is the consistent temper that Washington has in the film. It is understandable that her character is meant to be angry and distressed, but it got to the point that it was distracting. “American Son” is also a bit irritable to listen to, as there is no sense of calmness at all.

Otherwise, “American Son” is a movie with an important message and a must-see for film fanatics.

Rating: 4/5


Emily Mugno is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact her, email esm6@psu.edu.