Da 5 Bloods

Da 5 Bloods ★★★★★

I don’t really know what to say.

there’s not a right way to say goodbye to someone as monumental as Chadwick Boseman, someone who has recently meant a lot to me in my personal life for his work in this movie, whose performances have been embedded with such natural gravitas and quiet charisma that he felt unstoppable. I remember seeing him for the first time on a DVD of 42 I got from HMV back in 2013, I was a kid getting into movies and had started cataloguing the releases of the year I’d seen in a Microsoft Word document. that’s a memory I haven’t thought of in 7 years until this moment. I didn’t think too much of the movie but was mesmerised by him, not just his success at inhabiting a real person in terms of voice and presence, but his ability to convey the true emotions of a character. watching him, I felt like Jackie Robinson was there, not knowing what he looked or sounded like didn’t change anything, I felt him. he wasn’t just portraying a facade, putting on the costume and reading the lines, he was doing something more subtle and haunting, he made you feel like you were watching a real human being with hopes and dreams and moments of anger. the details of the film faded in time, but his face always stuck with me.

I think it was the year after when I saw him again, in Get On Up, another movie I wasn’t totally infatuated with. I thought it was fine, and it decreased in reputation in my head as the years went by and I became more familiar with the pitfalls of music biopic structure. but one thing that always stuck with me was him, the way he invigorated me with his fierce posture, his melancholic gaze, his vigorous body language while singing these classic songs sticks with me now. him as an older James Brown, moving around with the terrors of a sharp decline haunting his every millisecond still flashes in my mind sometimes, especially tonight. instead of making it feel like a tired trope, he inhabited that darkness in a way where for a few seconds, my immersion was so strong that I stopped thinking about performance or technical attributes, I just saw a man struggling. I remember complaining to my dad that he didn’t get an Oscar nomination that year, saying that if a biopic performance had to take it, it should have been Boseman.

in the grand scheme of things, we got so little time with him. he broke out properly as a star in 2016 with Civil War and in 2020, he’s dead. he was the kind of performer that felt not just that he’d be here forever, but that he’d been around forever and had always been gracing us with his compassion and versatility. but to me, he had been around forever. since I was 11 years old, he was around affecting the way I saw performance, being part of the fundamental years of my love for movies, giving dramatic turns that helped me understand body language as I grew older and providing me that kind of stability that I didn’t really recognise until right this second. to me, he has been around for the entirety of my individual personhood, when I started growing up properly, and him being gone now is crushing beyond words. he’d gave me joy even in just the most casual ways, making me laugh at the 21 Bridges trailer and premise for hours with friends, admiring his conviction while mocking the shit out of it. when I finally watched it, I had a great time in large part because of him, he took the material he had and ensured that audiences could have the best time possible with it. I still get smiles on my face thinking about seeing that trailer and texting my best friend Greg about it.

he proved himself as one of the most naturally kind and respectful men in the business through his press appearances for Black Panther, with my admiration for him growing after a recently recirculated video of him celebrating with Black Panther fans who expressed how much his performance meant to them. I can’t do that with Black Panther as a white man, but I wanted to share a little anecdote about his performance in Da 5 Bloods that has felt life saving for me over the last couple months, that I hope he would have appreciated hearing if he was still here. I almost lost my girlfriend to COVID this year, she got hospitalised around the start of the pandemic and was in the hospital for 4 months, with a lot of the time spent unconscious. there were numerous times in this period where I thought she was dead, that the person in my life that I loved most was gone and I couldn’t do anything to change it. since she’s been hospitalised, I have experienced 3 very personal deaths, two friends and a friend of my grandpa’s who I grew up spending some vacations with. these are all people that have meant a lot to me, that I have distinct memories of, who I didn’t get to say goodbye to. people I thought were always going to be here. these two things in constant symbiosis meant that I’ve contemplated my mortality a lot, thought about how limited time is, how you never know if someone you love will be gone, someone that means the world to you just not being there anymore. that’s hard when you’re autistic and thoughts can cause you to spiral out of control.

so when Da 5 Bloods came out, and I saw Chadwick’s perfect performance, the best portrayal of a spectre I’ve maybe ever seen, there was a connection there I’ve never truly been able to talk about before now. after the fear and realities of death had consumed me for so long, here was a representation of it, a symbol of absolute perfection, the idealised image of the person you loved more than anything, being the source of the last time you felt peace and the horror you experience at night. and in that scene, where he expresses forgiveness, where for a moment, this ghostly figure becomes tangibly real to offer final catharsis to an old friend, it felt like the goodbye I never got with the people I lost. it felt like my girlfriend telling me she was alive. it felt like the moment I got with my aunt three years ago the day before she passed. it was strength and power in a way I’ll never have the words to describe, something that transcends mere performance and hits you right in the core of your existence. him being actually gone, with so much shit left to give, makes the scene almost impossible to contemplate right now. but there’s a saying that’s been in my mind a lot recently, I’d rather hurt with you than love with anyone else. and I’d rather feel the pain of losing someone that had a tangible effect on my life, even if it hurts me on another level, than to never have felt that connection in the first place.

this year has changed me. I’m older in more ways than just age. I feel like in six months, I’ve lost six years. and losing someone else, even just an actor I’ve never met, feels too much to handle sometimes. but I hope he found peace, I hope he would have appreciated knowing how much he unknowingly helped an autistic person grieving, how much strength I find in him fighting through colon cancer to make as much positive impact through his performances as he could before the end. I will cling onto that strength for the rest of my life, and no matter how many years I get past this one, the way his performance here, the way his acting in general, have powered me through indescribable. rest in power Chadwick Boseman. you were loved and respected and I wish you’d never gone anywhere. thank you for making me feel strong.

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