Colman Domingo is Awards Worthy in Straightforward ‘Rustin’ (Review)

by | Nov 17, 2023


Colman Domingo’s performance lifts this biopic that is now streaming on Netflix.  

Despite Thanksgiving being just around the corner, it’s still too early to determine awards contenders (for the most part). Sure, there are films that have stayed in the minds of public viewers that could find their way into the awards race very soon, but what about the specific categories? Right now, maybe only one particular performance in an unnamed film that we have previously reviewed on this site will probably be in awards contention at this time in a specific category. However, add one more after today with the streaming premiere of Rustin. Veteran actor (and beloved human being) Colman Domingo plays the titular role of the man who played an integral part in the civil rights movement, and his performance alone is not only enough to see this film, but also garner the awards attention it should receive in the weeks to follow.  

Rustin tells the story of civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, a man who was close friends with Martin Luther King Jr. and helped organize the March on Washington in 1963. The film also examines Bayard’s sexuality and how he never wanted it in public view so it would never have a negative impact on the people trying to make progress on the civil rights front.  

For what it’s worth, the story of Rustin is pretty straightforward as biopics go. As the film mostly focuses on Rustin helping Dr. King and other important figures organize the March, the film spends a lot of time in meeting rooms with conversations amongst groups of people. These conversations lead to arguments and differences, but it is obvious that they are all there to strategize the March and figure out how it can have the biggest impact possible in an effort to spotlight the importance of the civil rights movement. The film also hones in on how some people who were imperative to the March wanted to cast out Rustin on the basis of his sexuality; the film brings much-needed awareness to how many people during this time period were hiding their sexuality over fear of hatred and criticism in a time where more than just racism was dividing the country.  

Early on, you’ll know how the story plays out. But Colman’s commanding performance as Rustin lifts this biopic to must-see territory and gives the real-life person who was significant to the civil rights movement his proper due. Giving one of the year’s best performances, Colman is commanding from the get-go, and you can tell he dedicated a large amount of time and care into studying Bayard Rustin in preparation for the film. (I highly recommend watching old footage of Rustin on YouTube after seeing this film.) 

Rustin is more than just a “the story you didn’t know” kind of biopic. Sure, it is straightforward for the most part; but Colman is undeniably great in the lead role and the reason to see this film, in addition to getting a much better understanding of another important figure who played a pivotal role during this critical time. With the film now streaming on Netflix, today marks the beginning of what should be an awards campaign worthy of an actor like Colman Domingo, who is deserving of any accolades that may be coming.


RATING: ★★★1/2

(out of five stars)