Freedom Writers

‘Freedom Writers’ is the nauseatingly earnest yet thoroughly winning account of real-life maverick high-school teacher Erin Gruwell (Hillary Swank), whose ceaseless struggle to guide her unruly flock towards a more hopeful future culminated in a book written by her pupils from which this film is adapted.

Woodrow Wilson High in Long Beach is a recently desegregated school in which the predominantly white honours students have been forced to mix with the local blacks, Latinos and Asians. Gruwell (affectionately dubbed ‘Miss G’ by her class) soon realises that imbedded racial tension is disrupting the learning process at all levels and (surprise, surprise) it falls to her to impose some radical methods to get these kids into higher education.

Hats off to the ever-reliable Swank, who invests Gruwell with a goofy charm as she naively tries to connect with her students by basing poetry classes on Tupac lyrics and clumsily drops phrases like ‘What’s the dealio?’ There’s also a great turn from Imelda Staunton as the officious deputy head constantly on hand with her trusty, stifling rule book.

However, the well-worn themes of the importance of learning and dignity of social acceptance anchor the film in the familiar bracket of Capra-esque fluff. The story, too, wins no points for originality (see ‘Goodbye, Mr. Chips’ through to ‘Dangerous Minds’) with Gruwell’s dedication to her job leaving you in two minds whether to weep or gag. Often, you’ll want to do both.

Release details

Rated: 12A
Release date: Friday March 2 2007
Duration: 123 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Richard LaGravenese
Screenwriter: Richard LaGravenese
Cast: Hunter Parrish
Jason Finn
Scott Glenn
April Lee Hernandez
Hilary Swank
Patrick Dempsey
Mario
Imelda Staunton
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