One of the highest-profile premieres at this year’s Sundance Film Festival was “Native Son,” the Rashid Johnson-directed adaptation of the classic Richard Wright novel. Ashton Sanders (who audiences may recognize from his role in “Moonlight”), stars as Bigger Thomas, a young man who is hired to be the driver for a white businessman (Bill Camp). When a set of tragic circumstances flip Bigger’s entire life upside down, he tries to find a way to escape this strange new dangerous world.
The cast for the film is filled with electrifying up-and-coming performers and established screen vets. KiKi Layne (star of another Barry Jenkins film “If Beale Street Could Talk”), Margaret Qualley (who’ll also be seen in the upcoming “Fosse/Verdon”), David Alan Grier, Sanaa Lathan, Nick Robinson, Elizabeth Marvel, and Stephen McKinley Henderson all play pivotal roles in the unfolding of Bigger’s fate.
This version of “Native Son” takes place in Chicago, in a setting eight decades after the original novel was published. But in his review of the film after its Sundance premiere, IndieWire’s Eric Kohn wrote, ‘Native Son’ transforms the classic protagonist from Richard Wright’s 1940 novel into a green-haired punk rocker, but director Rashid Johnson’s harrowing adaptation is more faithful than it looks…The most upsetting aspect of the movie is how little must change to give his plight a contemporary spin.”
This is the second year in a row that HBO has aired an acclaimed Sundance title on the network: Last year, the Jennifer Fox film “The Tale” debuted in late May. As with Fox, this is Johnson’s debut narrative feature film. HBO acquired “Native Son” from A24 on the day of the film’s Sundance premiere
Watch the full trailer for the film below:
“Native Son” premieres Saturday, April 6 on HBO.