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An Up-lifting Film About Real Events

  • Aug 3, 2008
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The Bottom Line: The Freedom Writers is worthwhile because it tells a true story that’s well worth telling, because it is (mostly) honest...

Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.

Ignorance: lack of knowledge or education. Ignorance (and the hatred it give birth to) is at the root of racism and bigotry and the source of so much human strife and suffering. In the case of The Freedom Writers (2007) ignorance led to misconceptions, lack of understanding and condemnation of a group of (colored) kids no one wanted to teach. And ignorance led the children themselves to mistrust everything and everyone around them. But in the end knowledge and understanding, tolerance and acceptance, and the selflessness of one teacher who believed in them tempered ignorance enough for them to succeed.

The Story-Line

Directed by Richard LaGravenese The Freedom Writers chronicles the (true) story of then 23-year-old idealistic Erin Gruwell (Hilary Swank – P.S. I Love You, The Reaping, The Affair of the Necklace), and the group of inner-city students she guided and taught for four years at Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, CA. Erin Gruwell was a first year (student) teacher when she started teaching freshman English to an integrated class of students who had nothing but hatred and distain for each other. And that hatred and distain was matched by the teachers who should know better.

Deploying unorthodox teaching methods—much to the consternation of her department head Margaret Campbell (Imelda Staunton)—Erin gets through to the children and they begin not only to learn, but to understand that their particular situation is not unique, that their fellow students have similar stories to tell. And through that understanding ignorance fades and true learning takes place.

My Thoughts

The Freedom Writers gets its name from the book the students put together based on the diaries Ms. Gruwell had the student keep. The book called The Freedom Writers Diary—a New York Times Best Seller—was published in 1999 chronicles the teens thoughts, lives, fears, and dreams.

The movie is inspirational and shines a light on the many factors can and do affect learning in American schools. Erin through her selflessness has something to teach all of us about intolerance and pre-conceived notions and or perceptions about people based on skin color and or ethnic background. She taught her students what we should all teach our children; that we all have baggage, it how we choose to carry it that will dictate your success or failure in life. Brilliant!

Hillary Swank did an excellent job as the traditionally educated prim and proper idealist in a smart suit and pearls; she is utterly convincing as a smart, square, but clearly naïve White woman who initially struggles to reach and control, let alone teach and gain, the respect of her diverse class of Blacks, Hispanics, Asians one (token) White kid.

Where does one of Gruwell’s background find common ground with students who might be packing pistols & knifes, wear electronic ankle monitors, live in virtual war zones, and have seen many of their friends and family fall victim to random acts of senseless violence? By pointing out that they are not alone and that their experiences as bad as they are not unique enough to prevent them from learning and achieving more.

The other actors did a fine job as well, especially April Hernandez (Eva Benitez) the young Hispanic whose story was followed closely.

Were the embellishments sprinkled throughout the story? No doubt there were, but this is a movie and in addition to telling the story it has to entertain. And The Freedom Writers is entertaining and pleasantly uplifting.

Of course this territory has been before by a myriad of films, including To Sir, With Love (1967), Stand and Deliver (1988), Dead Poets Society (1989), Dangerous Minds (1995), and Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995), but one can never have enough movies about uplifting human drama. And The Freedom Writers is worthwhile because it tells a true story that’s well worth telling, because it is (mostly) honest, and because the delightful Ms. Swank and company have done it so well.


Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older

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More Freedom Writers reviews
review by . October 10, 2008
Pros: concept of the film     Cons: ...     The Bottom Line:   "So I'm gone close my eyes  And I'm gone live my life  Despite what you think Im'a be free cause Im'a be me"  ~Ashanti         The movie Freedom Writers is fairly predictable and at times slow paced. The concept that brought this movie to light, however, is outstanding. It was directed by Richard LaGravenese who adapted …
review by . April 16, 2008
Pros: awesome soundtrack; great story; terrific cast; inspiring message     Cons: may not be for those viewers over 35     The Bottom Line: A terrific movie, especially for those attending a racially-charged school. An AWESOME movie for teens and teachers.     Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie''s plot. Voices of teenagers are constantly silenced by authority - Especially the voices of "troubled" teens. More …
review by . March 05, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
This is not the greatest film ever made. In fact, it's unlikely to rank in the top 500 or 1,000.     But it is an inspiring film.      A young, inexperienced public school teacher is given a classroom of kids who are expected to fail. Black, white, yellow, red, they have all failed to date and noting more is expected of them.     Hillary Swank, playing the teacher, is expected to warehouse them for a year or two until they are old enough …
review by . April 22, 2007
FREEDOM WRITERS produces more catches in the throat than many a film in years. This viewer avoided the film, thinking it was yet another in a long line of 'bad school kids with criminal instincts' brought around by a champion teacher (starting with 'Blackboard Jungle' the same story has been told almost yearly!): it is a distinct pleasure to share that this film is so very different on many levels that it makes all the other school problem/redemption movies pale in comparison.    Based …
About the reviewer
Vincent Martin ()
Ranked #187
I am an IT Professional and have worked in the industry for over 20 years. I may be a computer geek, but I also like reading, writing, cooking, music, current events and regretfully, politics.
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