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Movie Review

Beyond the Lights

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content including suggestive gestures, partial nudity, language and thematic elements.

Reviewed by: Brian C. Johnson

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults and Older Teens
Romance Drama
1 hr. 56 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
November 14, 2014 (wide—1,600+ theaters)
DVD: February 24, 2015
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Relevant Issues
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Does fame, fortune and adulation bring true happiness?

Can one find true happiness, without God, by following one’s own selfish desires? No, discover the good news that Jesus Christ offers

lies vs. truth

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Be careful what you naively wish for.

pressures of new-found success

parents who push for their children’s success, partly for their own vicarious glory

finding your own voice

TRUE LOVE—What is true love and how do you know when you have found it? Answer

music in the Bible

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Attempted suicide

SUICIDE—What does the Bible say? Answer

If a Christian commits suicide, will they go to Heaven? Answer

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Sex outside of marriage

fornication in the Bible

PURITY—Should I save sex for marriage? Answer

My boyfriend wants to have sex. I don’t want to lose him. What should I do? Answer

TEMPTATIONS—How can I deal with temptations? Answer

How far is too far? What are the guidelines for dating relationships? Answer

CONSEQUENCES—What are the consequences of sexual immorality? Answer

Sex, Love and Relationships
Learn how to make your love the best it can be. Discover biblical answers to questions about sex, marriage, sexual addictions, and more.

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Featuring: Gugu Mbatha-Raw … Noni
Nate Parker … Kaz
Minnie DriverMacy Jean
Richard Colson Baker … Kid Culprit
Danny GloverCaptain Nicol
Darryl Stephens … Quentin
Elaine Tan … April
Isaac Keys … Jonas
Tyler Christopher … Liam King
Benito Martinez … Jesse Soria
Aisha Hinds … J Stanley
more »
Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood
Producer: Relativity Media
Distributor: Relativity Media

“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” —John 8:32

What do you do when you get everything you ever dreamed about—fame, fortune, and the promises of an even brighter future? Suicide is probably not your first response, but for Noni, a singer on the verge of superstardom, the idea of a life where she must be what everyone else wants her to be pushes her to the edge, literally. Kaz Nicol, the police officer assigned to protect her, rescues her and the two form a special bond that is misunderstood by most around them.

Neither Noni (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) nor Kaz (Nate Parker—“The Great Debaters,” “Red Tails”) seem to have much control over their lives. Since childhood, Macy Jean (Minnie Driver), Noni’s manager-mother, has controlled Noni’s life and has brought her to the precipice of success. Kaz’s father, played by veteran actor Danny Glover, has his sights set on Kaz leaving the police force to run for public office. The unlikely duo, however, seek to define themselves for themselves, rather than be what everyone else wants them to be. They want to live by their own truths, but it appears unlikely, when others have so many plans for them. How can either truthfully explain the circumstances that brought them together, and how can they build a relationship that is based, at its foundation, upon a lie?

Written and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (“The Secret Life of Bees,” “Love and Basketball”), “Beyond the Lights” is a fairy tale full of meaning. Kaz fancies quoting the words of famous celebrities; his favorite speaks about the importance of truth above all else. The two star-crossed lovers wrestle with the expectations of others—Noni, to be the sex symbol starlet and Kaz to be the next great community leader to uplift his people. Both seem to be obedient to their “calling,” but neither seems prepared to handle the pressures—except when they are together. Though tumultuous, their relationship seems to be exactly what the other needs to find the courage to stand.

Speaking of expectations, “Beyond the Lights” is a well-made movie. Sadly, it falls victim to living up to the expectations of the genre and its place in our culture. As can be expected of the story of a young female pop star, Noni must bare more than her fair share of skin to be acceptable to a sexuality-crazed culture. The film follows suit. Although shy of much of the overt nudity that we see in film today, “Beyond the Lights” certainly earns its PG-13 rating for “sexual content including suggestive gestures and partial nudity.” There is an extremely uncomfortable scene where Noni is performing onstage with her ex-lover where it appears he is prepared to rape her in front of a live audience—thankfully Kaz plays the hero again.

How should followers of Christ feel about public musical peformanaces that simulate sex? LUST—What does the Bible say about it?

See: lasciviousness and lust (our WebBible Encyclopedia)

There are some scenes of violence; Kaz is a police officer, so viewers are privy to scenes of his life, including Kaz intervening in a domestic violence situation. He also takes on the Noni’s ex when he disgraces her. Language, of course, is on par with this type of thematic material (see below).

The film is being marketed to teens and to adults, but I strongly caution parents to see it first before allowing their youth to view. Just because it is rated PG-13, does not make it safe or appropriate.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Heavy—“Jesus,” OMG (5), “damn” (3), “hell” (6), f-word, s-word (dozen+), sexual slang, *ss (10) / Sex/Nudity: Very heavy

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

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