HBO's 'Native Son' Trailer Brings Richard Wright's Novel Into 21st Century Chicago

HBO / YouTube

On Thursday, March 7, HBO released the trailer for Native Son, their original film adaptation of Richard Wright's 1940 novel of the same name. And the clip, which showcases Moonlight actor Ashton Sanders as Bigger Thomas, looks intense follows the story of a young black man who takes a job with a white, affluent Chicago family that will change the course of his life forever. The film, which is due to premiere on HBO on April 6, also stars Sanaa Lathan, Nick Robinson, KiKi Layne, Lamar Johnson, Elizabeth Marvel, and David Alan Grier.

The first full-length trailer for Native Son paints a vivid picture of the world Bigger Thomas lives in — a world in which he keeps a gun in his room alongside his copy of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. After turning down an opportunity to score some fast money through criminal activity, Bigger, aka Big, is shown landing a job as a chauffeur for businessman Will Dalton (Bill Camp) which pays $1000 a week. With his new gig, he has more money and access to the world than he's ever experienced before. But, just when his life seems to be heading in a promising direction, things take a major turn when Bigger finds himself in a perilous situation concerning Dalton’s daughter, Mary (Margaret Qualley).

From beginning to end, the teaser trailer is wildly suspenseful, to say the least, as fans watch things unfold between Bigger and Mary's family. There's also the dynamic of Bigger's own family and girlfriend, who are at first happy about his life changes, but are later forced to convince him to tell the truth about what happened with Mary.

Native Son had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival this past January. Reviewing the film for Variety, Owen Gleiberman noted that Sanders, who also played alongside Denzel Washington in The Equalizer 2, offered a "poetic performance as the hero of Richard Wright's novel." That said, it's unclear how faithful the film will be to Wright's novel, written well over 80 years ago.

In an interview with Deadline at Sundance, visual artist Rashid Johnson, who made his directorial debut on this film, said that the key to the film was subtlety. "I think there's a lot of opportunity for things to take away, and I think a lot of those things can be quite subtle," Johnson said. He added that audiences shouldn't expect Native Son to spoon-feed them any themes or meaning:

"I think people are accustomed to having certain things translated to them when they are exposed to certain films that are about communities whether that be the LGBTQ community or communities of color. This film doesn't necessarily satisfy some of those really specific quotas."

Screenwriter Suzan-Lori Parks echoed Johnson's sentiments in an interview with Indiewire, also at Sundance. "If you feel it going over your head, your job is to reach," she said. "You gotta reach up there, because we cannot give up on each other."

The new trailer certainly leaves fans with a lot to process — and reach for. One imagines the film will be even more beautifully challenging.