The pressures of fame have superstar singer Noni on the edge, until she meets Kaz, a young cop who works to help her find the courage to develop her own voice and break free to become the artist she was meant to be.
The mixed-race daughter, Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), of Royal Navy Captain Sir John Lindsay (Matthew Goode) is raised by aristocratic Great-uncle Lord William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) in eighteenth century England.
Darius Lovehall is a young black poet in Chicago who starts dating Nina Mosley, a beautiful and talented photographer. While trying to figure out if they've got a "love thing" or are just "... See full summary »
Romance ignites between a troubled young singer on the cusp of stardom, and a handsome young cop with political ambitions in this drama about the power of walking your own path. Noni Jean (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is a talented singer whose ethereal voice has taken the world of music by storm. A glimpse beneath the surface, however, reveals a girl who's cracking under the pressure to top the charts. When Noni tries to end it all, concerned cop Kaz Nicol (Nate Parker) pulls her back from the ledge, and shows her that life is still worth living. Along the way, Noni and Kaz fall head over heels in love. Meanwhile, the powers that be conspire to keep them apart as well as focused on their respective careers. But without Kaz's love, Noni may never find her true voice..
Noni Jean was originally written as an American, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw auditioned for the role with an American accent. However, after hearing her speak in her natural accent, Gina Prince-Bythewood rewrote the character to make her English. See more »
Captain Nicol refers to his son Kaz's dog as male (saying he's fed) however, Noni says to Kaz's dog "hey girl". See more »
I needed to know what was worth saving about me.
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Lights And Camera
Written by Yuna (as Yunalis Zarai) and Robin Hannibal (as Robin Hannibal Braun)
Performed by Yuna
Courtesy of The Verve Music Group
Under license from Universal Music Enterprises See more »
Undeniably cheesy, but leaves an impression
"Beyond the Lights" starts off strong with Minnie Driver traumatizing her daughter after winning second place at a school talent show competition. Minnie is domineering and ambitious where her daughter is fragile and willing to please. However Minnie's one-track mind brings her daughter overwhelming, but terrible compromising success. After a milestone Billboard top song award Minnie's daughter and client, now going by the name Noni (played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw), decides to commit suicide. The older Noni is charming, desirable, and totally out of control of her life. Her bodyguard helps her from the ledge and the two romance.
What I've described is the first ten minutes of a two hour film. Does it maintain momentum? Yes. Is it predictable? Yes. Is there flaws? Also yes. But is it a dramatic, glamorous, heartfelt and sweet film? I think so.
"Beyond the Lights" follows the transition of fictional pop singer Noni from sex object to soul singer, but more importantly from an inauthentic musician and person to an authentic one. Unhappy with her cutthroat mother/agent, trashy co-star Kid Culprit and constant paparazzi, she clings onto her honest bodyguard for hope.
Their romance has "The Bodyguard" feels for sure, but they both read as very modern and this makes up for it. Noni's wardrobe in particular is incredibly fashion forward and up-to-date. Her styling reminds me of Rhianna. Mbatha-Raw as Noni is heartbreaking in her loneliness, but also absolutely believable as unattainable sex fantasy pop star. Her attraction is palpable and it's no wonder Nate Parker as the bodyguard looks smitten.
What is less believable though is Parker's bodyguard/cop/upcoming politician arc. His storyline is the weak spot in "Beyond the Lights." It's too expedited to feel realistic, especially as Noni's career is shown to have developed over ten years instead of a couple weeks in her bodyguard's case. Parker is fine as Noni's semi-reluctant lover. He is sweet-tempered and hot, and also respectful of Noni. However beyond this Parker lacks the same depth as Mbatha-Raw and also has less to play against. Mbatha-Raw has Minnie Driver for contrast.
Minnie Driver delivers a strong performance as selfish but hapless mother and hardened agent. One feels her character is pigeonholed however. She has less chance to show any kind of vulnerability that isn't used against her. Driver plays a good villain, but one feels with her acting chops she ought to have been given more to work with to show her dimension. I felt a bit of missed opportunity there.
I liked "Beyond the Lights." It had exciting, dynamic moments, but I felt some of the plot resolutions weren't fully earned. This prevents me from giving a higher rating, but I want to recommend "Beyond the Lights" as having truly standout aspects, especially in the portrayal by Mbatha-Raw. Although I was underwhelmed by some plot devices I admit "Beyond the Lights" did leave me changed. It has made me aware of how pop culture can sometimes mythologize a person while at the same time erasing their soul. It's a scary thought, but "Beyond the Lights" takes an honest and caring look, even if the result is cheesy.
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