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Beyond the Lights: Movie Review

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With great fame comes great adversity. That's the perspective set before us through the new movie, Beyond the Lights, starring up-and-coming talents Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Nate Parker. From the writer/director of Love and Basketball, this new Gina Prince-Bythewood film puts audiences face to face with the harsh realities that can come with being famous.

Unfortunately, the film's proclivity for sexual situations and foul language limit its reach. Rated PG-13, Beyond the Lights feels like a film at the cusp of an R rating (more explanation is listed below).


Rising pop star Noni (Mbatha-Raw) just wants to sing. But life hasn't turned out quite like she hoped. With her mother (Minnie Driver) controlling her every move, Noni doesn't feel like herself. She feels more like a product being sold to the masses than a singer. The pressure of fame and performance pushes Noni to the very edge; that is until she meets Kaz (Parker), a kind, young Los Angeles police officer who helps her lay hold of the strength she needs to find her own voice.


Parents, be forewarned. Beyond the Lights is rated PG-13 for good reasons, those specifically being for the movie's “sexual content including suggestive gestures, partial nudity, language and thematic elements”. Not far into the movie, the screen is full of provocative dances and poses, as you watch one of Noni's music video. This movie showcases a lot of skin, with Noni being the one primarily seen in skin tight, very revealing clothes.

(Spoiler ahead…) At one point, during a photo shoot, she's pressured to go topless (her arms cover her chest as the camera moves from her bare back to in front of her). The sexual content is motivated (intregal to the story being told), and we begin to see Noni resist being used as a sex symbol. Her move toward being more covered up is a good message for young movie-going men and women.

Beyond the Lights definitely hits on issues relevant to today's culture. It shines a light on the dark side of fame (specifically within the music industry), the affect of an ambitious and controlling parent, the weight of depression, about race, suicide and self-identity. These are all important conversations, and they are brought up well within the framework of this original screenplay by Prince-Bythewood. However, it is, at times, a lot to take in. The depths to which this singer falls is sobering and a little heartbreaking as you think of the young women (and men) living in the limelight, in front of bright cameras, singing and dancing for us.

Quality wise, Beyond the Lights boasts a good cast and is shot well, but it isn't very surprising with a somewhat predictable storyline. Mbatha-Raw and Parker both give strong performances. The chemistry between their characters is definitely there.


Beyond the Lights tells a solid story that speaks to the entertainment industry's overly sexualized state and finding ones voice despite opposing forces crowding your life. Still, caution is warranted, and the good in this movie may not be enough to compensate for what you are required to sit and watch.

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About The Author


Hannah Goodwyn served as a Senior Producer for, managing and writing for the award-winning website. After her undergraduate studies at Christopher Newport University, Hannah went on to study Journalism at the graduate level. In 2005, she graduated summa cum laude with her Master's from Regent University and was honored with an Outstanding Student Award. From there, Hannah began work as a content producer for For ten years, she acted as the managing producer for the website's Family and Entertainment sections. A movie buff, Hannah felt right at home working as's