Selma directed by Ava DuVernay is a film that doesn’t really wow you in anyway but does deliver a solid performance form its lead David Oyelowo and also tugs at the heart strings from time to time, sadly though Selma doesn’t really have much to offer in the way of a compelling experience.
Selma leads with an at times strong performance from David Oyelowo who plays Martin Luther King Jr but mostly the reserved, subtle nature of his performance is what is front and centre in the film. Without a doubt Oyelowo’s stand out times in Selma is when he is delivering one of the many famous and inspiring speeches by Martin Luther King Jr. These segments really highlight how formidable of a performer Oyelowo is. He commands these sections faultlessly and with ease and he certainly captured the spirit of Mr King in these moments. Though these moments are wonderful to watch they as you’d expect come few and far between and the majority of the time in the film is with King going from place to place and engaging in round about conversations that go on for a while and struggle to lead to anything, these where at first interesting to watch but soon just became reductive to the flow of the film and not even Oyelowo brilliant performance could salvage these frankly dull moments.
What really harms Selma is the lack of supporting characters, apart from King everyone else is just there for the sake of being there, no one jumps out as a character or person that you beg to see more of, everyone becomes filler for scenes that are desperate for some life to be infused into them and soon everything becomes flat and frustratingly simple. Selma is not a film that can just survive on the events that took place in that city and the film painfully highlights that, far too little development seemed to be put into creating anyone or thing as important or interesting as Martin Luther King Jr and the film definitely suffers because of that.
It is the moments of civil unrest in Selma that the film comes alive. The peaceful marches that are inevitably met with police brutality, the infamous walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, these moments are heart wrenching and the way in which they are handled and shot really capture the horrid things that happened during those times. I did find it a little odd though that the film had such a low rating for the subject it was approaching (12A here in the UK). The film is dealing with some heavy material and I felt that had it shown the true, unadulterated actions and consequences of the times then it would have certainly made this an even more powerful film, having said that the film does still do a tremendous job with these scenes despite it not showing the full extent of the brutality.
Selma as a film is a weird one, this is a film that with the subject that it is showing, should be a film that inspires you or angers you or causes any kind of visceral emotional reaction but when the film finished and I had walked out the cinema, it had done none of that, it never really stuck with me or left me pondering some of the events from it, Selma as a film was just there, it left no impression on me at all and that’s sad, this is a film that should shout from the roof tops and have your undivided attention but instead struggles to leave you with any significant memory of it having occurred.
Overall I was disappointed with Selma, it never reached the levels that I would expect from a film like this and this is a film that I expected to feel inspired, motivated, anything really and I just didn’t.
So with that being said I don’t think Selma is a film that I would recommend, it doesn’t really do anything special that warrants your time, this is perhaps a film you catch when it appears on Netflix or something, it isn’t really a film that I would rush out to see.