Akeelah and the Bee (2006) — PICK

Children of Men (2006) — PICK

Logan (2017) — PASS

 

If you loved Queen of Katwe (and if you haven’t seen it, see it now), you’ll want to discover Akeelah and the Bee. Both films are moving, winsome tales about a young black girl growing up in a poor urban neighborhood with a struggling, widowed single mother and a wayward older sibling. An educated male mentor discovers the girl has the ability to compete in a particular way that may lift her up from her circumstances, even if her mother doesn’t immediately understand.  

The location here is not Kampala in Uganda, but South Central L.A.; the mother is Angela Bassett; the mentor is Laurence Fishburne; and the arena is not chess, but spelling. Though the fictional story lacks the fact-based Queen of Katwe’s Christian milieu, its emphasis on family, community and solidarity makes it just as uplifting.

There’s also a young girl with a male mentor in Logan, Hugh Jackman’s 10th and presumably final performance as the X-Men superstar Wolverine, but what they do isn’t very nice. Logan is too unremittingly bleak and devoid of hope for my tastes, and “young girl as feral killer” is a queasy trope I’d be happy never to see again.

If you’re looking for hard-hitting dystopian fare for mature viewers, I recommend Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men. Its themes of sterility, civilizational hope and the miracle of procreation and life only become timelier with every passing year.

 

Caveat Spectator: Akeelah and the Bee: Some mild profanity and a couple of crass words; some tense family and social content. Fine for older kids. Children of Men: Constant obscene and coarse language; some profanity; recurring intense violence, including an urban battlefield-type sequence; a fairly explicit childbirth scene; fleeting female nudity. Mature viewing.