Successful author Veronica Henley finds herself trapped in a horrifying reality and must uncover the mind-bending mystery before it’s too late.
‘Antebellum’ is an exciting thriller with a great premise that kept me on my toes from start to finish, delivering a fresh twist on the Black American experience, in a way not too dissimilar from something like ‘Get Out’ (although not as good as that film). It stars Janelle Monáe in the leading role as a woman who we meet in both past and present, as a slave in the past and as a successful author in the present, with the question of how these two periods relate to one another a key question that hangs over much of ‘Antebellum’. I felt it blended the past and present of the black experience in America well, with the past depicting the horrors of slavery and the present depicting an optimistic future where black people can be successful, but with clear caveats that the film will explore.
After an opening act on a slave plantation we move into the present where Janelle Monáe is Veronica Henley, a jockey turned author (yes, I’ll come back to this…) who is about to leave her husband and young daughter to go on a book tour, starting in Louisiana. Her trip appears to be going successfully although several strange things occur that give Victoria cause for concern, and I liked how the filmmakers present this as if it could just be something that a black woman has to put up with, instead of necessarily being something sinister. I really like Janelle Monáe and she’s a good lead here, performing well in both the past/present segments and I liked how the narrative of this film constantly kept me guessing. Having not read a huge amount about it beforehand, it wasn’t quite what I was expecting it to be in a good way. It has some flaws – shoehorning a past as a jockey felt jarring at the time, yet it becomes apparent why this was included later on, and the ending felt rushed – but overall I thought this was a well-made thriller that wasn’t afraid to go to some incredibly dark places.
‘Antebellum’ has a smart premise which is executed well by directors Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz, and apart from wishing we had a bit more time at the end, I really enjoyed this film, both as a thriller and as chilling social commentary.
Directed By: Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz
Starring: Janelle Monáe, Eric Lange, Jena Malone, Jack Huston, Kiersey Clemons, Gabourey Sidibe, Marque Richardson, Tongaya Chirisa, Robert Aramayo and Lily Cowles