R ‧ Drama/Thriller ‧ 1h 38m
Written by Krystin Ver Linden
Directed by Krystin Ver Linden
Keke Palmer; Jonny Lee Miller; Common; Gaius Charles; Alicia Witt
(In their own words) Alice, an enslaved person yearning for freedom on a Georgia plantation, escapes through the woods and stumbles through time into the year 1973. After she meets a disillusioned political activist, she confronts the lies that kept her enslaved.
The biggest thing about Alice that I couldn’t shake were the words from the trailer, ‘Inspired by true events”. I had to research this after seeing the film. Turns out, In 1960 a Black woman was found to be still held in slavery in the south. There are so many incredible injustices that have happened to Black Americans over the last couple hundred years, even after I think I’ve heard all the stories there are to tell, I find an all new story.
Alice is a powerful and emotional film. Opening up on the slave Alice, played by Keke Palmer working on a southern plantation, on what appears to be the early 1800s, it seems like we are going to have a typical story of a slave owner and his mistreatment of the slaves. But there are early hints of something wrong, something mysterious. One of the slave hand speaks of his father meeting a man who could make fire from his hands (a lighter). These little mysterious things pop in letting us know something is off.
The master of the plantation is obsessed with Alice. After she secretly marries her boyfriend, the master becomes very upset and tells her husband he is going to send him away for
“breeding” purposes. And later, the master then forces himself upon Alice. Here is where you will get a lot of complaints. You will hear criticisms of torture porn or something like that. Because there are way too many movies of Black people in slavery and they often have rape scenes. It’s almost a trope at this point. But it’s really hard to tell a story involving that time and make it seem realistic without showing the horrors of what was happening. If a filmmaker doesn’t show the extreme ugliness of what was happening they can get accused of glossing it over and making it not seem so bad. It’s really a catch 22 for filmmakers dealing with this era.
At this point, after a series of events involving her husband, Alice escapes the plantation, and makes her way onto a 1970’s modern interstate highway, where she faints upon almost getting run over by a semi truck driven by Frank, played by musician/actor Common. Frank takes her to a hospital and it is at this point that we realize she is not a time traveler, she isn’t crazy, she was being held in an unbelievable situation. She is caught between wanting to help her family she left behind and worried about not being believed by local police and sent to an insane asylum. This is also the deep south in 1973, the police aren’t likely to be very helpful to her anyway.
The film has some really great moments. Keke Palmer’s performance is a masterpiece. Her acting is raw and emotionally open. Following her through each discovery is incredible. The pacing of the film is really nice, the story is compelling throughout, and it really does a wonderful job mixing the thrill and mystery in the beginning of the film, without giving away too much of what is going on.
It’s an unnerving story, and it really does its job of compelling you to tell other people about it. While the specifics of the story are made up, the fact that the basic event of the film is true is both mind boggling and profoundly gut wrenching. First time director Krystin Ver Linden did an exemplary job of crafting the film with the right tones, for in some ways this is two films in one. One is the world of slavery that Alice starts in before she finds the rabbit hole to freedom. Both worlds were distinctly different but clearly in the same universe. That’s what takes a lot of skill.
This film made me tell all my neighbors about it and what the film is based on. What else can you ask from a film? It takes a really good film to make you talk about it and the source material, and this pulled that off. I urge you to take a look at this Sundance premiering film as it opens up nationwide.
Three BEST things about the film
- The story is really engaging.
- Acting performances are solid throughout.
- Writing of the story and dialogue is excellent.
- Finally a twist on the traditional “slave” stories.
The WORST things about the Film
- The time on the “outside” happens too fast. She should learn the history a lot slower. But I don’t know how to solve that and keep the pacing going.
- It’s hard to keep watching the violence on Slaves movie after movie, but like mentioned before, how do you show the horrors without the horrors.
Doing the right thing is never wrong.
Just because a story is unbelievable doesn’t mean it isn’t true.
THE FINAL WORD
A compelling and thought provoking film that you’ll want to tell others about.
My 3L system gives me the choice to Love It, Like It, or Lose It.
Alice gets a Love It from me.
When he’s not reviewing films or interviewing people for the Black & A Half podcast, Silas Lindenstein can be found in the greater metro Seattle, WA working as a real estate agent helping people buy and sell homes, or performing stand up comedy to fellow nerds. He has a wife and three children and desperately wants to learn to make the perfect homemade pizza.