24 March 2005 | film-critic
Your queen is just a pawn with some fancy moves, nothing more.
Fresh is one of those movies that you never see coming. From the opening credits until the end, it provides you with this deep, gritty, yet utterly realistic portrayal of a youth's mind on the streets. While our normal society will shrug a struggling African American living in the ghetto as someone without the intelligence to go forward in life. It is a sad reality in which we live, but it is a thought that goes through suburbia's minds. This film proves the age-old saying that you should never judge a book by its cover. What begins as a normal urban drama quickly unfolds into this tightly woven crime story where we have this unexpected hero that arrives from nowhere to pull of this incredible feat. With perfect acting, the right combination of drama and action coupled with suspense, and a story that literally keeps you glued to your seat until the very end, it surprises me that more people haven't discovered this cinematic gem and attached themselves to it.
To begin, Sean Nelson is brilliant. I have not seen better acting from a young adult in my entire film life. Dakota Fanning comes close, but Nelson's emotion seems to be raw and uncreated by Hollywood. His reactions and passion behind his eyes is intense and compelling at the same time. You cannot watch this movie without keeping your eyes glued to this kid. I am very surprised that he has not done more roles that would be able to showcase this young protégé's talent. He interacts well with the other actors as well, giving us this rare glimpse into a world that many of us may not be familiar with. He takes us away from the clichéd child abandoned on the streets with nothing to loose and gives us faith in the family structure and bonds that are created between humans. Sometimes I think we forget this as we watch our televisions, buy our cars, and spend our money. There are important aspects in life, but at times our ideas of that can be skewed. That is what I love about Sean's role in this film. He defines himself early, and allows us to see his change clearly throughout the film. He begins as wanting to have a lot of money and power to using what he has earned to save his family and his friends. There is something redeemable about that which isn't shown as much in films today.
Add to the brilliant work of Sean Nelson are a couple of actors that really played well of the emotional child. Giancarlo Esposito, N'Bushe Wright, Jean-Claude La Marre, Ron Brice, and the unquenchable Sam Jackson are just a few. Nelson's ability to play off Jackson's intensity with the greatest of ease is just another glowing example of the power behind this film. You can honestly see where Fresh's talent began with the strong father/son dynamic that director Boaz Yakin has created. Yakin has crafted this beautiful story of a child's inner demons and desires with the greatest of ease. As a director, he has pulled more emotion out of these children than I have ever seen with any other child actors. Where he takes his story is bold and realistic. The dirtiness and grime of the streets contrasted with the intelligence of this child was nerve racking and intense. I loved it. Yakin had to be proud of himself to find such a great cast to work with as well as create this story that could be enjoyed by audience throughout the ages.
Finally, I would like to comment on one of the most important themes of this film that I didn't realize until closer to the end. Chess is a huge element in this film, and at first you will not see this, but by the end it will hit you like a brick. The power that Jackson brings to this young boy's mind simply by teaching him the strategies of chess is insurmountable. While I thought that Yakin was just trying to define the father/son relationship with this game, there was so much more going on underneath the top layer that I wasn't expecting it from this small title. I think that is what impressed me so much.
Overall, this film is great. It is boldly honest and originally beautiful (in repetition of myself) that needs to be re-released or remembered time after time. I am so glad that I discovered it and cannot wait to show it to friends and family. It is nothing short of the perfect film!
Grade: ***** out of *****