On New Year's Day, 2009, 22-year-old Oscar Grant was shot and killed by a police officer. If you didn't know the facts beforehand, you learn it from Fruitvale Station's first scene, real mobile footage, filmed by a train-load of witnesses. But rather than "ruin" the ending, this dramatic irony makes it more poignant.
Oscar (Michael B. Jordan) is no hero. He's unemployed, and a small-time drug dealer. He angers easily, and isn't always honest. Director Ryan Coogler doesn't try to hide his flaws, but does portray him as trying to make the most of the cards life's dealt him.
The film charts the fairly uneventful 24 hours before Oscar's death; it is more about building a character, which Coogler does subtly, simply and beautifully, with handheld cameras and a truly excellent cast including Melonie Diaz as Oscar's long-suffering girlfriend, and Octavia Spencer as his mum.
The film deals with race issues that are mostly US-relevant, but still relatable. While it is political, it is also the story of an ordinary man. His senseless death both criticises racial profiling, and is a reminder to make the most of life.
Contains scenes of undesirable behaviour and strong language