A young man who has grown up on the streets of the townships outside of
Untrained actor Presley Chweneyagae gives a chilling performance as this young man filled with bitterness and violence who through the gift of a child, even for a short time, comes to understand that life is about more than self. Life is completed by having someone to care for.
Tsotsi and his crew live an almost feral existence. We only see them come into town to commit crimes -- and they are vicious crimes. They quickly find the weak and prey upon them. They care nothing about life or death, only the satisfaction of releasing their rage on their victims.
When Tsotsi chooses to bring the baby back to his shack, he takes upon himself the responsibility for another person. He is not equipped for all that is involved. He tries to feed the child canned milk, with minimal success. Soon he finds Miriam, a young widowed mother with a child of her own, and forces her at gunpoint to feed the child. In time he learns that caring for the child is beyond him, but how can he take it back? And what will life be like for him after having given himself, however inadequately, to another.
It is in his sharing his life, first with the child, then a bit with Miriam, and a bit more as he cares for
Through brief and chaotic flashbacks we see a bit of what pushed Tsotsi to this life of anger and violence. We see his dying mother and cruel father. We see Tsotsi and Aap living in the pipes that make up the township's orphanage. (Tsotsi later comes back to those pipes and sees the next generation that is headed toward his life.)
In a key scene, Tsotsi goes into the city where he encounters a beggar in a wheelchair. Following him out of the train station, he eventually asks him, "Why do you live like a dog?" referring to the way he begs and survives on other people scraps. But we see that it is Tsotsi who lives like a dog – a pack animal who grabs what he can without regard or morals.
The film is a study in contrasts. We see the skyscrapers of
The contrasts are not just matters of rich and poor. There are the loved (Miriam's child) and the unloved (the children in the pipes). There are those who survive and those who live. Tsotsi is on the cusp of moving from surviving to living. It is not an easy shift to make, and Tsotsi is only beginning to make the shift. But we have hope that the first steps he has taken will in time lead to life.
The film is based on a novel by one of
Tsotsi is a powerful depiction of the power of sharing our lives with others. It is a film of hope in that, by the end, we see where Tsotsi's life can go, even if it is still a long and difficult journey. But he has learned that there is more to life than himself and the moment. The child he finds in the back of a car offers him a future he may have never contemplated. Futures are always a sign of hope.