Kendra and Scott are estranged; their middle of the night reunion at a police station is fraught for many reasons. Hours ago, Kendra fought with her just-turned-18 year old son, Jamal, and now he’s missing. No longer a minor, the police won’t take his mother’s anxieties seriously, but this black mama can’t help but think the worst.
Kendra (Kerry Washington) gets no where the the newbie cop (Jeremy Jordan) but as soon as her white husband (Steven Pasquale) shows up, it’s another story. But it’s not a great story. Jamal may not be missing so much as involved in some sort of incident. Details are sparse, but his car’s been pulled over by a cop and no one’s heard much since.
As they wait for a senior officer (Eugene Lee) to arrive, Kendra and Scott unravel the many tensions in their marriage – racial and otherwise.
Taking place over the course of just a couple of very tense hours, the script pinpoints the particular experience of black Americans. Scott is sure that his son’s affluent background, prestigious schooling, and privileged address are enough to insulate him from the realities on the news. But Kendra knows when cops are making split-second decisions, his skin colour is all that matters.
American Son is absolutely riveting to watch. My only complaint is that the two have so many sharp edges it’s hard to really understand how they ever could have been a couple. But it hardly matters when Washington’s on the screen, and she’s always on the screen. Her performance is astonishing, and Kendra’s frantic worry is infectious. You want, very badly, for there to be any other reason for Jamal’s absence – but in today’s America, is that even realistic?