Losing Isaiah Reviews
Losing Isaiah is very much a modern day retelling of Kramer vs. Kramer. Rather than a father and mother battling for custody of a child, you've got two women who have both asserted the role of mother for the titular child Isaiah. Hitting a hard kind of drama, the custody battle becomes centred around a biological mother against an adoptive mother, challenging viewers to consider what truly constitutes the validity of such a position. The way the story is placed, both sides of the legal battle are represented by characters that the viewer wants to root for and both characters are sympathetic in their plight. This sets the story up to be a really powerful one where viewers are dragged through a lot of emotional manipulation and changes to comprehend the extent of drama in the story. This lays a lot of power down on audiences even if the film descends into melodramatic territory semi-frequently, and it's a lot to take in. The film really poses a lot of questions at audiences and twists them in many directions with its moral concepts, so its quite a lot to take in. And as this makes its way through themes of race relations, different class systems, family struggles and courtroom drama we are challenged to really take in multiple perspectives on the material. Frankly, Losing Isaiah is a very emotionally charged film which tackles some edgy material.
There is a lot of material in the script which occasionally displays the film exceeding its narrative grasp simply because it wants to push beyond the limits of familiar dramatic material. The ambitions are worthy of praise, but the screenplay isn't consistently developed to supply enough intelligent writing that actually lives up to the wider attempts at dramatic edge. For one thing, the side of Khaila Richards is way too simplistic. The extent of realism in it isn't exactly convincing because the main factor supporting her side surrounds her ethnicity and not so much her credibility as a person. Halle Berry makes it a challenge not to support her, but in looking at it from a perspective of legal sensibility it would be hard for many viewers to support the side of someone who left her child for dead regardless of her ethnicity or any other factors. Perhaps a different perspective would come from someone of a different race or gender, but I just genuinely didn't believe that the legal system would ever be as simplistic as Stephen and Naomi Foner Gyllenhaal have depicted it as. There is even a subplot introduced somewhere along the way about a relationship between Khaila Richards and a local named Eddie Hughes, but this gets forgotten about somewhere along the way and therefore adds no ultimate development to the final narrative. This means it achieves little more than being a simple distraction from the main premise, and so I can't help but wonder what the hell the point of it was. It didn't add anything, and even though it did give the film an excuse to add Cuba Gooding Jr. to the cast it didn't have any lasting value.
Unfortunately, even if viewers enjoy the dramatic leadup of Losing Isaiah it is hard to look past the ending. The entire buildup of the film is contradicted by the poor calibre of its conclusion. Once the legal battle is finished, the film is just about over. But before it completely finishes, it rushes viewers to an ending which is both a little too optimistic and nihilistic at the same time: Isaiah is given back to his birth mother but misses his adoptive mother and so the two ultimately find a way of coinciding so that they may both be involved in his life. After battling each other for the title of mother in an emotionally charged court case, suddenly they are able to easily put their differences aside within a matter of minutes for the good of the child. So all the melodramatic buildup in the film was for nothing; for a film that closes like an afterschool special which lives in happy land. I'll tell you right now, I was not a happy customer and nor did I believe in the excess of optimism which followed a film which was so bluntly pessimistic for the majority of its running time. I felt betrayed; like I had spent a lot of time waiting for an ending which never arrived. Frankly, Losing Isaiah seems mostly like the prequel to another film which never happened and as a result it is half a story at best, even though it has two parallel plots.
However, I will not deny the powerful performances of the two central actors.
Halle Berry really steals the show in Losing Isaiah. The start of the film challenges her to capture the struggles of crack cocaine addiction with physical and mental dedication to the character, and soon after it plunges her into the depressing pits of being separated by her son. The following material develops this into showing her attempting to live a clean life before the familial themes are introduced to the film. Frankly there is a lot of changes Halle Berry's character experiences in Losing Isaiah, but the actress manages to keep developing throughout all of it which is extremely impressive. Even with her carless actions as a mother, it is a struggle to not sympathise with her much of the time because she really conveys the intense stress of a mother separated from a son she really loves. The fact that Halle Berry manages to grasp it with relentless dedication and tenacious depth makes Losing Isaiah an unforgettable experience. It is truly one of the best performances of her career, and she carries the heart of the film throughout many of its lesser moments with the instinctive acting talents that would later earn her a deserved Academy Award for Best Actress.
Jessica Lange is also a predictably powerful actress. The material she faces isn't of the same calibre as Halle Berry, but the two-time Academy Award winning actress refuses to back down and delivers an extremely impassioned performance. Her effort is one of more restraint; emotional on an internal level as she struggles to comprehend the difficult situation she faces in the world. Slowly we see more irk its way out of her, and the realism in her performance is very respectable. Jessica Lange conveys a large amount of strong dedication to the material, and her presence is one of the best assets of the film.
Samuel L. Jackson's presence is similarly genial.
Losing Isaiah wrings powerful leading performances out of Halle Berry and Jessica Lange, but its edgy story relies more heavily on emotional melodrama than actual logic which creates an inconsistent experience that leads up to an incredibly unsatisfying ending.
It began to unravel itself by guiding us on a two sided roller coaster, After Berry made the worst mistake a parent could do... leave a child in a trash can during the coldest nights of winter. Left almost for dead, lange who works at the Hospital falls for the abandon child and plans to adopt. What appears to good to be true is just that. Berry under false assumption finds out her son is alive desides to fight for what's her's. Creating a tornado of fury and controversy. The tension begins to boil over, an argument about white people rearing colour childern, verse's Lange trying to prove colour is not an abstucal or a factor when you love a child and can offer stablility. The Director was brilliant by avoiding 1 sided opinion giving the audience a choice to chose what they believe is right.