The students are understandably skeptical, excruciatingly contemptuous. From where they sit, slumped and hunched, some with their backs literally turned away from the front of the room, Erin looks like the stranger she is. She’s an interloper, a do-gooder, a visitor from another planet called Newport Beach, and the class sees through her as if she were glass because the writer and director Richard LaGravenese makes sure that we do too.
Funny how point of view works. If so many films about so-called troubled teenagers come off as little more than exploitation, it’s often because the filmmakers are not really interested in them, just their dysfunction. “Freedom Writers,” by contrast, isn’t only about an amazingly dedicated young teacher who took on two extra jobs to buy supplies for her students (to supplement, as Mr. LaGravenese carefully points out, a $27,000 salary); it’s also, emphatically, about some extraordinary young people. In this respect Mr. LaGravenese, whose diverse writing credits include “The Ref” and “The Bridges of Madison County,” appears to have taken his egalitarian cue from the real Erin Gruwell, who shares author credit with her students in their 1999 book, “The Freedom Writers Diary,” a collection of their journal entries.
Mr. LaGravenese keeps faith with the multiple perspectives in the book, which includes Ms. Gruwell’s voice and those of her students, whose first-person narratives pay witness to the effects of brutalizing violence, dangerous tribal allegiances and institutional neglect. The film pops in on Erin and her increasingly troubled relationship with her husband, Scott (Patrick Dempsey), and there’s a really lovely scene between the two that finds them talking ruefully over a bottle of wine about the divide between fantasy and reality in marriage, a divide one partner tries to bridge and the other walks away from. But while we keep time with Erin, we also listen to the teenagers, several of whom tell their stories in voice-over.
Among the most important of those stories is that of Eva (the newcomer April Lee Hernandez), whose voice is among the first we hear in the film. Through quick flashbacks and snapshot scenes of the present, Eva’s young life unfolds with crushing predictability. From her front steps, this 9-year-old watches as her cousin is gunned down in a drive-by shooting. Later her father is arrested; she’s initiated into a gang. One day, while walking with a friend under the glorious California sun, a couple of guys pull up in a car and start firing in their direction. Eva dodges bullets and embraces violence because she knows nothing else; she hates everyone, including her white teacher, because no one has ever given her a reason not to.
In time Eva stops hating Erin, though the bullets keep coming. It’s a hard journey for both women, one that includes other students, most of whom are played by actors who look too old for their roles and are nonetheless very affecting. None of these actors are outstanding, but two are memorable: the singer Mario, who plays an angry drug dealer, Andre, and another newcomer, Jason Finn, whose big, soft, moon face swells with fury and vulnerability as a homeless teenager named Marcus.
Mr. LaGravenese isn’t a natural-born filmmaker, but he’s a smart screenwriter whose commitment to characters like Marcus makes up for the rough patches in his directing. Like Ms. Swank, who shares the screen comfortably with her younger co-stars, he gives credit where credit is due.
“Freedom Writers” is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). There is some gun violence and adult language.
StarsHilary Swank, Imelda Staunton, Patrick Dempsey
Running Time2h 3m
GenresBiography, Crime, Drama
- Movie data powered by IMDb.com
Last updated: Nov 2, 2017
The headline for a film review in Weekend on Friday about “Freedom Writers” misidentified the California city in which the movie is set. It is Long Beach, not Los Angeles.
The listing of credits omitted a producer. Danny DeVito was a producer, along with Stacey Sher and Michael Shamberg.
Analysis of Freedom Writers Essay
1457 Words6 Pages
Freedom Writers- Theme Essay:
The film Freedom Writers directed by Richard La Gravenese is an American film based on the story of a dedicated and idealistic teacher named Erin Gruwell, who inspires and teaches her class of belligerent students that there is hope for a life outside gang violence and death. Through unconventional teaching methods and devotion, Erin eventually teaches her pupils to appreciate and desire a proper education. The film itself inquiries into several concepts regarding significant and polemical matters, such as: acceptance, racial conflict, bravery, trust and respect. Perhaps one of the more concentrated concepts of the film, which is not listed above, is the importance and worth of education. This notion is…show more content…
Erin’s view seems to be that if enough effort is put into educating students they will not revert back to crime in later years. Thing strong opinion contrasts considerably with the view of Margaret, who shows woe when commenting on voluntary integration. Margaret seems wary when noticing Erin’s overwhelming optimism towards her troublesome students; students Margaret considers to be intractable. Margaret goes on to warn Erin not to wear her pearl necklace to class but despite this warning, Erin wears it around the school constantly. This symbolizes the trust Erin has in her students and her abilities to teach her students right from wrong. This is an example of the film technique of specific dialogue which was used in the film.
This concept is expanded later when Erin requests that Margaret give the children in her class proper books and resources. Her request is met with an apathetic response that due to the nature of the children in her class, the students would have to use the inexpensive booklets they were accustomed to. In reaction to this, Erin takes on two more occupations in order to finance the expenses of correct books herself. This action shows us the high regard Erin has for proper pedagogical material and for education in general. Margaret, on the other hand, does not consider that the children may benefit from utilising proper books if given the chance and that giving them booklets can be interpreted as a degrading act.