Following its buzzy opening night debut at the Sundance Film Festival last night, “Native Son” will be available for viewing much sooner than originally thought. HBO has announced an April release date for the modern retelling of Richard Wright’s famous 1940 novel of the same name. The film is directed by Rashid Johnson in his feature filmmaking debut and written by Pulitzer-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks.
The official synopsis from HBO reads: “Bigger Thomas (Sanders), is a young African-American living in Chicago who is hired as a chauffeur for affluent businessman Will Dalton (Bill Camp). As Thomas enters this seductive new world of money and power — including a precarious relationship with Dalton’s daughter, Mary (Margaret Qualley) — he faces unforeseen choices and perilous circumstances that will alter the course of his life forever.”
Sanders’ work as Bigger Thomas has been largely acclaimed by movie critics. The actor got his breakout in Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight” and proves his movie star bonafides in the way he nails all the complexities of Bigger’s story arc. Fellow Jenkins’ breakout Kiki Layne (“If Beale Street Could Talk”) also delivers powerful work as Bigger’s girlfriend. The supporting cast also includes Nick Robinson, Elizabeth Marvel, Stephen McKinley Henderson, and Sanaa Lathan. Matthew Libatique, currently Oscar-nominated for “A Star Is Born,” serves as cinematographer.
IndieWire’s Eric Kohn was mixed on “Native Son” at Sundance (read his review here), but he did praise Sanders for carrying the entire movie on his shoulders and Johnson for bringing a powerful directorial vision that enhances the novel’s themes. “While very much a first feature,” Kohn wrote, “‘Native Son’ wrestles with the vision of its iconoclastic source material with an incendiary edge in tune with its outlook.”
“Native Son” will have its world premiere April 6 on HBO. Watch the first official trailer below.