Sunday 19 February 2023

Movie Review: Freedom Writers (2007)

Genre: Biographical High School Drama
Director: Richard LaGravenese
Starring: Hilary Swank, Scott Glenn, Patrick Dempsey
Running Time: 123 minutes

Synopsis: In the wake of the 1990s Los Angeles race riots, first-time teacher Erin Gruwell (Hilary Swank) joins Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, California. She is placed in charge of a first-year English class for multi-ethnic at-risk youth, most of them suffering tumultuous home lives and many of them gang members. The kids don't really want to be at school, but Erin persists, despite no support from the school, the cynicism of her father (Scott Glenn), and the strain on her marriage to husband Scott (Patrick Dempsey).

What Works Well: Director and writer Richard LaGravenese elevates familiar material into an effective, hard hitting, and uplifting human drama. Based on actual events, the transformation of a classroom from a divided hostility zone to a place of refuge is handled with pragmatic sensitivity. The highlights include a revelatory what-unites-us class session, a journey of awakening through Holocaust education, and individual students emerging from the collective by finding their voice in journal entries. 

What Does Not Work As Well: The pivot from a class full of anger to a room full of appreciation is sharpish, and the subsequent narrative progression is linear. Some of Erin's self-belief proclamations are cringey, and not always intentionally so.

Conclusion: The lesson is not new, but the delivery is polished.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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