Ray Charles Robinson (Eric O’Neal Jr.) had all the odds stacked against him: a poor, Black boy from the South, and blind to boot, his future didn’t look too bright. But Ray had a gift: a golden voice and a unique ear for music. In this inspiring biopic, we follow the most significant period in the life of music legend Ray Charles and in those 30 years, see everything that made him both man and icon.
Born to poor, but proud and independent Aretha Robinson (Sharon Warren) in Florida, Ray was the oldest of the woman’s two sons and learned the value of a hard day’s work at his mother’s feet. After tragedy strikes their small family and Ray (Tequan Richmond) starts to lose his sight, Aretha is determined that her child will never have to beg, borrow, or steal and she insures Ray’s independence by working to send him to a school for the blind.
Ray (Jamie Foxx), who’d shown a love and aptitude for the piano prior to losing his sight, masters the instrument and, always a man of vision, made a living for himself with his keyboard and ability to mimick popular Black male singers of his day.
Although blind, Ray has no trouble “seeing” pretty women and when he meets Della Bea (Kerry Washington), a woman who sees him for a change, he finds his own voice and makes a name for himself.
Amid love, drug addiction, infidelity, and the constant guilt he carried around with him, Ray Charles touched the lives of millions of people, and not always for the best. Seamlessly blending rock, blues, country, jazz, and gospel, Ray created a sound all his own. In Ray, see the man’s highs and lows as they are punctuated by some of his greatest hits, and meet some of his greatest influences in the form of friends like Quincy Jones (Larenz Tate) and his most notable mistress, Margie Hendricks (Regina King).
Ray doesn’t ever try to make Ray more than a man. His shortcomings and character flaws stand out in stark relief. But it is the fact that he was able to create such beauty from a place of imperfection and pain that resonates with audiences. Ray also does a wonderful job of highlighting the often overlooked aspect of how childhood trauma can have an irrevocable impact on a person, and that the desire to please one’s parents is one that many of us hold on to forever.
I give this one 5 stars.