This true Civil Rights story isn’t presented as profoundly as it should have been.
“Son of the South” is a Civil Rights biopic that has good intentions, but never seems to fully deliver. The story, based on a true story, is set in Montgomery, Alabama in the 1960s, and we meet Bob Zellner (Lucas Till), a young college student, whose grandfather (the late Brian Dennehy) is a member of the KKK. He’s willing to defy him by supporting the African-American community, and that’s strong. But the writing by Barry Alexander Brown (who also directed it) barely gives the characters any depth or analysis, and they just come and go.
Bob nearly gets himself expelled from college for attending a colored baptist church-led by Rev. Ralph Abernathy (Cedric the Entertainer)-as part of a school assignment. Rosa Parks (Sharonne Lainer)-the woman who fought against the bus boycott-was also in attendance, and wants Bob to join her, Civil Rights Activist Virginia Durr (Julia Ormond), a Vogue journalist (Sienna Guillory), and a Chinese boy (Ludi Lin) in the Civil Rights Movement.
His would-be fiancee (Lucy Hale) dumps him for his ambitions to fight, and he lands a job at the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), where he lands a new relationship with a smart colored woman named Joanne (Lex Scott Davis), and has the balls to tell his racist grandfather about his intentions. Now seeing, Dennehy in one of his final roles is emotional and he has his moments, but he’s underused. And that also applies for Joanne, who just says smart things, but isn’t treated like a smart character. She’s all cut and paste.
Bob Zellner is a real person, who wrote the autobiography “The Wrong Side of Murder Creek,” and Till does a solid job portraying him with his tone and sweetness. And you also get some nice supporting work from Lainer (putting her love into Rosa Parks) and Lin (using courageous dialogue), but they only appear during the first half of the movie. I’d be repeating myself if I told you the supporting characters are underdeveloped again, but they are.
Parts of “Son of the South” are poetic and brave, while other parts are either lackluster or silly. A much more effective Civil Rights movie would be “Judas and the Black Messiah” opens next week in theaters and on HBO Max. As a film critic, I suggest you wait to see that, because it was more bold, interesting, and provocative than this. I wanted more out of the story, I wanted depth and dialogue, and I wanted the actors to really (I mean really) put all their strengths and weaknesses. They do, at times, but it’s just not enough.
Streaming On Demand