Yarjka’s review published on Letterboxd:
Who loved me? Who loved me?!
The racism displayed in this film is pathological, to the point that I was worried that it was sending the wrong message. It seemed that it was saying that there was no explanation for it, that racists are just crazy. However, Ray’s whole final monologue clears things up in a very stark manner. This man knows he never had any chance of succeeding in life—he’ll never be the educated, trusted doctor that people believe. Yet here’s this nigger (the word is used a lot in this film) who has been given all of these things. It enrages him. It’s not illogical, either.
The film has its quieter moments, too, that help to show that Ray is not alone in his approach. The initial incident at the hospital is a subtle example of power structures that focus on the good of the institution over the individual. The conversation about hiring a negro doctor (the more civil word choice) belies an inherent racial bias. Do we really believe that the head doctor cares only about skill, whether the person be “black, white, or polka-dot”? And even so, does that perspective help or hinder the overall acceptance of the one black doctor?
The scene where the black community rises up against their white attackers elevates this film tremendously. The mentality that the only valid option is to not stoop to their level results in people dying, people in wheelchairs, people with scars. People can’t sit and take that kind of abuse—not even dogs can do that. Only upon rising up do the power structures take notice.
RIP Sidney Poitier. This was his first film role and he’s excellent from the start. Very evocative facial expressions, a lot of patient resolve, and the ability to display the full range of a character.