Freedom Writers movie cast: Hillary Swank, Patrick Dempsey, Scott Glen, April Lee Hernandez
Freedom Writers movie director: Richard LaGravenese
Freedom Writers movie rating: 4 stars
I don’t know what it is about the teacher-student story, but if it is made with some effort, it manages to strike a chord with me every single time. Hillary Swank starrer 2007 drama Freedom Writers might not have been produced with the same skill that went into the making of Oscar winning Dead Poets Society, but it is, after all these years, a socially and even politically relevant drama.
April Lee Hernandez’s character Eva Benitez says at one point in the film, “We kill each other for race, pride and respect. We fight for our America.” In the US, people are still killed and shot on the basis of their skin colour. Gun violence is still prevalent. In other words, Freedom Writers’ narrative lives on, whether we like it or not. So perhaps in these times, the Richard LaGravenese directorial has taken on a new significance.
So many times and in so many places across the globe, it has been repeated that children are our future. Hillary Swank’s Erin Gruwell really does believe that statement. In fact, it is her first teaching job in a racially charged classroom and as a young, well-to-do white woman, she could not have been more ill-prepared. However, what makes her tick is her courage and strength to see the rough parts through.
Slowly, but surely, she builds a family at her new school (at the cost of her marriage). There is one sequence that really is the defining moment of the movie, the one that brings the classmates and their teacher together.
Hillary Swank’s character decides to play a game with her students, a line game, wherein she draws a red tape in the middle of the room and asks her pupils to step on the line if the questions rings true to them. She first begins with asking cultural, popular questions like ‘How many of you own the latest Snoop Dogg album?’ However, later, she shifts her tone and says, “Stand on the line if you have lost a friend to gang violence.” Nearly all of them do and take turns to look around, to know that they are not alone in their suffering. It’s a pivotal moment and says much without saying anything. How all of cinema should aspire to be.
Hollywood Rewind: Pretty Woman | Dan in Real Life | Jurassic Park | Tangled | Meet Joe Black | Monster’s Ball | Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind | You’ve Got Mail | Half Nelson | Fight Club | Doubt | American Psycho | Julie and Julia | Forrest Gump | The Silence of the Lambs | Finding Neverland | Roman Holiday| American History X | Tropic Thunder | Before Sunrise | Scent of a Woman | Finding Forrester | Sixteen Candles
The movie could have been edited a bit as it lingers in places unnecessarily, places that don’t say much. However, the performances and the writing are what brings together the story seamlessly.
Another inspiring bit about the film is that this is based on true events where a teacher called Erin Gruwell asked her students to keep a journal to record their daily activities in Long Beach, California. And as sappy as it sounds, we all need inspiration at some point in our lives and if we are getting it through the entertaining medium of movies, could you really ask for anything better?
Freedom Writers is currently streaming on Netflix.