Part love story, part drama, and all music industry realness, Beyond the Lights is the modern day The Bodyguard with better looking actors.
Noni (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is on the path for super-stardom – featured on several tracks with top rapper Kid Culprit. She’s playing the game, being notorious and selling an image and even has the token Mom-ager (Minnie Driver), but creatively feels like she is drowning. Unable to cope she tries to jump off a balcony when her police protection for the evening Kaz (Nate Parker) rescues her. There is an instant attraction and connection and as Noni searches to find the courage to break free from the music industry’s control she finds herself gravitating more and more to Kaz.
Despite the glitz and glamor and mirage of the entertainment industry being the setting for the film, Beyond the Lights is a relatable story of finding love and independence. The similarities between Prince-Blythewoods creations and films like The Bodyguard is striking but what sets Beyond the Lights apart is inherent chemistry between Mbatha-Raw and Parker along with the top notch acting and direct plot line.
Both Nate Parker and Gugu Mbatha-Raw and captivating, commanding the audience’s attention and near daring them to be bored enough for their minds to wander. Of the two, Mbatha-Raw is superior and perfect in playing a music darling with ‘it’. Nate Parker tries to match his co-star’s innate acting ability but occasionally falls short, lacking range in his facial expression and defaulting to a generically pained grimace for most ‘negative’ emotions.
Of course, Beyond the Lights is a romantic film so it does periodically dip into predictable and sentimental. But, none of the drama is drawn out and writer/director Gina Prince-Blythewood smartly focuses on her well formed characters rather than the events that surround them.