WHAT IT’S ABOUT Thank God for Mother’s Day. It gives TV an excuse to make the kind of fact-based film it usually doesn’t make — about people too often overlooked, ordinary folks, not famous, not well-off, not crime-struck. They say their prayers, they live downscale, they work like mad to make their lives better.
Turns out there’s stirring drama there.
Yes, of course, by the end of these two hours, we see plenty of money and fame. But most of the film is plain inspiration, as D.C.-area hardscrabble single mom Wanda Pratt struggles to raise her two boys right, to become college successes and businessmen, and oh yeah, one of them a national icon. Named the NBA’s most valuable player in 2014, Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant used his acceptance speech to pay an emotional tribute to mom Wanda that went viral, calling her “the real MVP.”
Footage of that speech forms the spine of the film, which dramatizes some 25 years in the life of a night-shift postal worker who had her good days and her bad days, but always had her boys’ backs. Wanda (Cassandra Freeman, VH1’s “Single Ladies”) learned from her own God-fearing mom (Pauletta Washington, wife of Denzel) to set goals and keep “looking ahead,” with support from a steadfast best friend (Tracie Thoms, CBS’ “Cold Case”).
Wanda would end up living in style, gifted by the men she’d raised with character and grace. Other men would step in, too, including her boys’ crucial youth basketball coach. There’s no cultural point-scoring here — no gender cards or race cards — just heartwarming humanity.
MY SAY This isn’t the easiest type of movie to make soar, but executive producer Queen Latifah and director Nelson George lay it all out simply, in moving fashion, with actors who radiate conviction. The script does telescope much of its motivation into platitudes (“We all lose our way, it’s normal, don’t beat yourself up”). But maybe real life does, too.
BOTTOM LINE Nothing fancy or poetic. Just sincere, direct, resolute.