Review: The Fifth of November

Directed by Javier Augusto Nunez and co-written with lead actor Qurrat Ann Kadwani; following Jane, a survivor of a mass shooting, as she prepares to celebrate another birthday by eliminating possibilities of a future shooting. A reflection of America’s insatiable gun culture, also starring: William H. Bryant Jr., Joanna DeLane and Shaw Jones.

The Fifth of November hits upon its political view very quickly, having a news anchor in the background talking about America’s constantly rising and harrowing numbers of mass shootings and their victims. With all the talk of Fox News that saturates discussion all over the world with its excessively conservative views, it’s hard to picture another outlet being so frank about the issue of gun control but hopefully some are. This message is hit harder by Jane’s very modern apartment, stylish and minimalist but aptly lacking in personal touches, which is effectively followed up by her cold demeanour and almost mono-tone cadence. This icy attitude is then explained by the causality, her fiancé being killed in a mass shooting incident, mere minutes after their engagement.

The moments flashing back to her happier life prior to this traumatic event, are unfortunately the weaker elements of the film, they are slightly over-romantic, the dialogue is quite cheesy and almost sickly sweet. It pushes a little too hard on the conventional idea of happiness at times, and the portrayal of Zachary by Bryant Jr. isn’t as strong Kadwani’s presence as Jane, so it sadly doesn’t fit smoothly with the rest of the film. As soon as the first flashback appeared, after the introduction strongly in favour of gun control, it was clear what was going to become of Zachary but that predictability is quickly thrown out the window as the film changes direction entirely to its more thriller leanings.

At first, the change in tone feels slightly jarring but as it continues and you realise Jane’s more violent and vigilante-esque intentions, it works because it so vehemently throws your preconceptions about the film out the window to bring in this darker journey. It makes an apt comment on racism towards Asian-American women and then moves further to tackle the issue of racism in regards to terrorism and the never-ending issue of mass shooters being labelled ‘mentally unstable’ if they’re white but terrorists if they’re any other race. It’s a baffling sort of discrimination, that is only enabled by institutional racism and the actions of Jane become a satire of that prejudice. It’s done in a way that’s quiet, not necessarily subtle but in a manner that’s not brash, it comes through slowly.

Qurrat Ann Kadwani’s performance as Jane, gives us a brief glimpse into a character that it would be fascinating to learn more about, she’s highly motivated, loyal, dedicated and willing to cross lines to protect what she believes in, in an almost Punisher style fashion, minus the gratuitous violence. The film has an edge to it that’s close to an origin story, many a hero has been created through losing someone they love and while hero would be a strong and probably inappropriate word for Jane, it does follow a similar theme.

The Fifth of November tackles head on an issue that plagues America, watching and hearing news break out of the states of shootings is horrifying, it’s daily insanity to watch footage of your average citizen out in the world with high calibre weapons. There are an unbelievable number of people in the US who have had to watch their loved ones die from the epidemic of gun violence and this film is an excellent reminder that they’re in dire need of more stringent laws to protect them. It has softer moments that don’t reflect the darker message its sending, they do set the scene but are simply too romantic and sentimental against the harsher story. However, it’s a poignant satire that has an important message.

Verdict: ✯✯✯

Check out the trailer for The Fifth of November below!

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