Quick recap: Tsotsi is a leader of a gang that spends its time robbing and killing people to get what they want. After doing some pretty messed up stuff, Tsotsi takes it further by shooting a woman, stealing her car and then driving away, only to realize there is a baby in the backseat. He makes a decision to abandon the baby but then changes his mind and decides to raise it. It’s like 3 Men and a Baby, except with a lot more violence and the baby almost dying.
Fun (?) Fact:
The soundtrack was so interesting to listen to! I’d never heard this style before but it really adds to the mood of the film.
My thoughts: This movie was so hard to watch. I knew it wasn’t going to be a field of flowers and kittens but I wasn’t expecting something so bleak. The film takes place in a slum in Johannesburg, South Africa where crime is rampant and everyone is just trying to survive. The main characters in the film are so bad. In the first few scenes, they stalk a businessman onto his train and then crowd around him. They warn him that they are going to take his money and then one guy pulls out a very sharp, thin ice pick and shoves it into the man, killing him almost instantly. It’s such a cold way to die. One of the members confronts Tsotsi after the ordeal, saying that it makes him sick to kill someone like that. He is severely beaten for this. The point is, as bad as these guys are, they are also trying to survive, like everyone else.
Tsotsi is such a complex character. He seems emotionless at the beginning and yet he starts to crack a little after killing the businessman. After deciding not to abandon the baby after the carjacking, Tsotsi shows that he needs to feel a sense of love and belonging, just like everyone else. But after growing up in the slum, he doesn’t have the skills to care for a child. The baby is constantly crying, and after trial and error he realizes that he is hungry. In the only way he knows how, Tsotsi pulls a gun on a woman with a baby and forces her to breastfeed. It is her compassion and kindness to the baby that brings him to start to remember things about his own childhood.
It is revealed that Tsotsi’s real name is David and he once had a home with a mother and father. In one flashback, David’s mother is dying and she wants to hold his hand for comfort. His father comes in and orders David to go away. He runs and hides from his father and then watches in horror as his father viciously kicks his pet dog and breaks its back. It’s almost unbearable to watch this scene. David runs away and goes to live in a pile of cement cylinders.
In the end, Tsotsi makes the right decision to return the baby back to his parents. Although the plot itself is riveting, it is the actors who really make the movie shine. Their performances are so authentic that it was hard to remind myself that this was only a movie and not a documentary. On a personal level, this movie made me really think about the kids I teach. Many of them grow up in unimaginable situations and it’s easy to forget that beyond the tough exterior is just a child who wants what we all want. The film is a great reminder that although there is plenty of evil in the world, there is compassion and decency to do the right thing.
Final review: 5/5. If you can stand the violence, this is required viewing.
Up next: A Fish Called Wanda