I know we hear a lot of times about our, Black people’s, gripe with stories of Black trauma and yet, we continue to see stories these types of stories. While I, personally, am a proponent of being exposed to all types of stories of my heritage, good or bad. To combat this, we, as Black people, often ask for diversified stories, if you will. Stories that deviate from Black trauma and show a side of Black life that we don’t often see or we don’t see at all. This is an example of what me mean by that.
I was floored when I found out that the people who I thought were actors in this movie were real riders. They did a phenomenal job acting in this film while also bringing their real selves to the role. Concrete Cowboy is an age old story that is not defined by race, but Boyz N The Hood does come to mine in comparison of plot line. Cole, played by Caleb McLaughlin who we all know and love in Stranger Things, is at that age where he’s defying superiors and trying his mother. She has gotten to the point where she cannot fight for or with her son anymore, so what does she do? What all mothers do. Make arrangements to drop that boy off with his daddy, who happens to be a cowboy…in the city of Philadelphia. Of course, a life lesson about discipline and hard work follows and he learns what it means to be a man in this world. Harp, played by Idris Elba, is a father to all the boys and girls in the street but fails to really see his son the way he needs him to. He learns what it means to be there and truly understand a son he really didn’t have a hand in raising, for one reason or another. Happy ending…sort of. There’s a bunch of things that happen in-between but this is the gist of the story.
Honestly, I did not dislike anything about this movie. I was riveted from beginning to end and I haven’t been glued to a screen like that since Endgame. I was invested in the journey and the characters and that’s what you need for a story like this that strays from the norm. You have to create a compelling storyline centered on compelling characters to really sell the story. This movie did just that.
My favorite part in watching this film was watching the bond between Cole and Smush, played by the incredible Jharrel Jerome. The whole time we thing that Smush is in the street solely to make money and be “The Big Man on Campus,” so to speak, and boy were we wrong. I have never been more astonished to be wrong in my life. Smush was working to build. Could he have done it another way? Sure he could have but the younger generation is used to the fast life. Things happening quick. They don’t have time to wait for much of anything but I was so proud to hear him say to Cole that they could flip these old stables, make money and create a home for their cowboy community. Even Method Man’s character, Leroy, wasn’t all bad. I appreciated the riders having someone like them on the force who understood who they were, what they were about and what they stood for.
Lorraine Toussaint’s character, Nessie, reminds me a lot of Tina Lifford’s character Violet, or Aunt Vi as they call her, from Queen Sugar. Since his mom is nowhere near and his dad doesn’t seem to have a soft side, she is where we get that motherly touch from. Back in the day, women like her were “block mothers.” They made it their mission to make sure the children on that block and beyond were ok. Nessie is no different and I loved the energy she brought to the role. She wasn’t completely soft. There was an edge to her, which Cole needed.
So, I am the person who talks to the screen. I admit it but did anyone else yell at Cole when he was literally taking a shovel at a time to the dumpster with new kicks on? I can’t be the only one. The lesson he got from and the friendship and respect he gained from Paris was better, for me, than the repaired relationship between him and his father towards the end of the film.
Let’s dive into the history for a second. I am a lifelong learner who loves when I get to explore something I don’t know. We all know about people migrating from the South to the North for factory jobs and better opportunities to make money for their families, but I never thought about farmers and others who owned livestock. I figured those people would have stayed down South, tended to their land. Wrong. Those people came up North, too, and brought their horses with them and made a home in Philly. Fletcher Street seems to be legendary spot for riders who wanted a safe haven and family. I never thought about this also being a unique opportunity for children in the community. Learning the art of riding a horse and what it takes to maintain a horse. This is the best kept urban secret!
Like I said, I was riveted throughout the movie and just when you think you know, you find out you have no idea. Concrete Cowboy can be found on Netflix, and right now, this is HIGH on my recommendation list.