The Mangrove Is Required Viewing

Wednesday night found me at the Ford-Wyoming Drive-In. It was stupid cold and I had to work early the next day, but going out was definitely worth it.1

I attended a showing of the first portion of Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series
Mangrove. The film is phenomenal. Upon arriving home I posted that I spent at least half of the movie with a weight on my chest, nervously drumming my steering wheel.

Mangrove tells the story of the Mangrove Nine, a group who were arrested after a protest and whose trial revealed the rampant racism in London’s MetroPol. It is a film about real people, and I don’t just mean that in the “this was based on real events” way. The characters are fully fleshed out people, with loves, desires, and even faults. Shaun Parkes is absolutely amazing as Frank Crichlow, the owner of the titular Mangrove restaurant. While the Mangrove starts out as a simple place to get Trinidadian food, it becomes the focal point for the clash between the white police force and the non-white people they harass on a constant basis. Parkes does not portray Chrichlow as an unblemished hero, but as a man who sometimes acts in ways which are not in his best interests. He chafes under the constant raids of PC Pulley (Sam Spruell). He lashes out in totally warranted anger. He also shows the unmitigated joy Chrichlow has for his community.

Other stand out performances include Letitia Wright as Altheia Jones and Rochenda Sandall as Barbara Beese, but honestly the entire cast is amazing. The audience feels the pulls of the various defendants as they face a system which is designed to keep them from winning. The desire for self-preservation vs the need to stand up for the betterment of the community and the chance to change society is palpable.

Mangrove drops on Prime today, the first of five films in the Small Axe2 collection. I look forward to the others in the series and encourage you all to watch this one now.

1 And just for the free snacks.

2 A reference to the proverb "If you are the big tree, we are the small axe" featured in the Bob Marley song “Small Axe.”