Freedom Writers

 (3,774)7.62 h 2 min2007X-RayPG-13
A dedicated teacher (Hilary Swank) in a racially divided Los Angeles school has a class of at-risk teenagers deemed incapable of learning. Instead of giving up, she inspires her class of at-risk students to learn tolerance, apply themselves and pursue education beyond high school.
Directors
Richard LaGravenese
Starring
Hilary SwankPatrick DempseyScott Glenn
Genres
Drama
Subtitles
English [CC]
Audio languages
English
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Producers
Danny DeVitoMichael ShambergStacey Sher
Studio
Paramount
Rating
PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
Content advisory
Alcohol usefoul languagesexual contentviolence
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Format
Prime Video (streaming online video)
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Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars

3774 global ratings

  1. 88% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 8% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 3% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 1% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 1% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

Melinda LoveReviewed in the United States on January 13, 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
Amazing movie and excited to read the book!
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Family response:
Father: Great script, positive message, we watched it with most of fam (wife was tired so slept) however, she'll get to watch it (and cry, and celebrate) when she wakes up. Should be seen in all schools across the globe so all children develop higher sense of empathy, compassion, understanding of history, culture, hope and perseverance.

Eldest son: Very culturally informative, especially for African-American minority Asian, Mexican, and any child of any skin tone/Cuture who is an outsider (white, etc) .... youth seeking guidance or simply films that relate more to them on a practical day to day level. The main messages and lessons from the film are life-changing influencing the perspective and philosophical foundations and beliefs of the viewers.

middle son: it has a great message and a positive vibe. amazing movie!!!

sister: I just saw the movie with my family and I thought it was fantastic! Cant wait to buy the book.
25 people found this helpful
1VoiceReviewed in the United States on January 27, 2018
4.0 out of 5 stars
An important story of silenced voices
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Beautifully written and acted movie. A powerful motivator for all of us. A reminder to believe in our individual ability; "that [anyone] can turn on a light to shine in a dark room". Strength can show itself in even the smallest of ways, simply by standing up for what is right. Even when everything around you seems wrong. Our actions define us. "I am not a hero. I did what I had to do, because it was the right thing to do. That is all."
All quotes are from Miep Gies the woman who hid Anne Frank her family and 4 other Jews during and others in her attic. But also the voices of the classroom rang the truest and loudest. I am glad that there was a brave women, played subtle and powerfully by Hillary Swank, who faced odds. The school systems inherent weakness bias and actions that are complicit in the socio-economic class and racial divide still endemic throughout our culture and society. In order to honor her personal sacrifices we should really listen to the students who let their voices be heard. Who had the courage to face their humanity and the often violent world of those who grow up in poverty. Those are given up on too easily. Having worked for no child left behind, I saw this every day. I could give examples but the best thing to d too understand is to watch listen and try to learn about what "other's" (Ii.e: all cultures/races, economic classes, genders)have to say. We need to listen open our hearts and truly listen. Frankly, there are far too many stories stories of race gender and people who are not part of the somehow dominant "white male class" that has prevailed by writing and rewritten history. Let's stop listening to the people who control the media. The medium is the message. Let's search and yearn for truth. Let's for once listen to what the others have to say. As our struggles may be far more similar than we had imagined. What divides us may also be a bridge between us. I am glad this movie was made. It is not typical Hollywood fare. Although the white woman teaching in the troubled urban neighborhood yet rises above. Thusly the spotlight shines on them and their triumph. I felt like this movie focused the camera both inward Swank and but more importantly outward to the students and their struggles and feelings. Revealing them all connecting them all in a gentle yet powerful way.
P.S
Hopefully, the story will move you. If you have a heart beating in your chest and want to feel it, to know you are alive. go ahead and let yourself listen and learn while you watch. Whether it be political, social, economic, gender, race, sexual preference.. These are the communities in which we live that may divide us from each other. I hope you watch this movie and maybe even seek out to learn more about these students. Maybe read the book the movie was based on.Learn about the changes to the system these kids tried to make and what became of them. But I hope, above all else, that it helps you listen to a story that differs from your own. That for even one small moment you might empathize (not sympathize), but really empathize with the struggles that all walks of life face. To know that in the end, no matter who we are, or where we sit on the divide, we might be able to connect. By listening to the stories that humanize the individuals that are fighting to be seen and heard. But, most importantly, still struggling for basic rights and equal measure in a world still divided.
17 people found this helpful
GTSD 942Reviewed in the United States on January 26, 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
Perfection.
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Quite possibly one of the most inspiring things I have seen in such a long time. Blended beautifully with recent history and just so well done, I have to admit I teared up a bit and just wished that this classroom was in every school. Such a strong woman, such strong convictions, and the combination brought out the strength of students who never thought they contained it. A+.
17 people found this helpful
Ralph HollisterReviewed in the United States on August 5, 2018
4.0 out of 5 stars
but it is probably better than that
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I gave it four stars, but it is probably better than that. It's not the first time I watched a movie about a dedicated teacher struggling to do what is best for her class against the "blob"(the school system bureaucracy and the unions). What is surprising, even though she was not able to get any support for her ideas, she was able to convince the powers that be not to excessively interfere. I applauded her efforts up until she lobbied to allow her to stay with her same original class until they graduated. Instead of fostering dependency, she should have given them the confidence to progress on their own.
The subtext of this movie is about how this is the exception, a teacher that rather than just going through the motions, is actually concerned with educating her class and moreover, drawing them out of the stupor produced by growing up in the dystopian subculture of the "hood". Instead of this being a blueprint for the system to cultivate and emulate, it will remain as always, a stand-alone anomaly.
8 people found this helpful
BrianReviewed in the United States on March 27, 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
Opened my eye's
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Sometime's, with all that is going on in the world and my life, I forget how hard it is just for kids to make it through the day. These kids not only had normal kid problems but problems that a lot adults don't ever have in their lives. I think they are amazing for being able to handle it and keep going. I think this teacher was amazing for helping them by not giving up and being a like every one else and just following the rules. I mostly thank them for making the book that might encourage other kids to take a stand on their own lives and make it better. It's people like the one's in this classroom that we need more of in this world...Thank You, Freedom Writers!
3 people found this helpful
TulliaReviewed in the United States on August 17, 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
Writing, The Panacea For the Soul
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This is a magnificent movie about a teacher who in her first year of teaching came to teach in a racially diverse school. Most of the students lived in the projects; many were members of gangs; many lost two or three friends or family members who were killed in street fights; some were thrown out of their pathetic homes by parents or a parent; some were beaten by parents; all lived hard and difficult lives for the short time they were on this earth.

Erin Gruwell, played by Hillary Swank, a dedicated English teacher, gave these misfits hope. She taught them to respect each other, and to love to read and especially to write. She brought them black and white notebooks and told them to use them as their diaries. They could write anything they wanted in them. They could put them in her closet and she would lock it if they wanted her to read them. They all put their diaries in the closet. And what Ms. G., as the students now called her, read was incredible. She read about what difficult and harrowing lives these youngsters led. Their writing was an outlet for all their hardships and grievances. Writing in these diaries was a turning point in their lives.

Ms. G. got permission to take her class on a trip to which she took her students to the Holocaust Museum. They were so affected by this. She wanted them to read "The Diary of Anne Frank," but her chairperson, Margaret Campbell, played by Imelda Staunton refused to give her the books, claiming that her undisciplined kids would only destroy the books. Ms. Campbell set up roadblocks for Ms. G. and tried to impede any progress she was making. This didn't stop Ms. G. She took a job in a department store on week nights, and a third job in a hotel on weekends as a concierge so she could pay for books and supplies for her students. Ms. G.'s ardent love of teaching was creating great tension in her marriage. Her husband, Scott, played by Patrick Dempsey, resented that she took on three jobs and was seldom home. He soon left their home.

In her second year, Ms. G. had her students read "The Diary of Anne Frank," and she told her students she wanted them to write a letter to Mier Gies, the woman who hid Anne in the attic room in Amsterdam. The students were then so exuberant about wanting to invite Ms. Gies to their school to talk to them. They held a fundraiser to pay for Ms. Gies' airfare. The newspapers picked up on it and a number of articles were written about the teacher who inspired them to write to Ms. Gies, who, in fact, came to the school. During Ms. Gies' talk to the students, one student, Marcus, played by Jason Finn, raised his hand, and told Ms. Gies that she was his hero. She said "No, I'm not a hero, I did what had to be done," but she said that all the students before her were heroes, for Ms. G told her a lot about the them.

This is a heartwarming movie about a teacher who changed the lives of a great number of students through dedication and the love of writing and literature. Her students grew to love her and went on to bigger and better things in life, and their diaries were published into one piece, entitled "Freedom Writers."

At the end of the movie, a photo of the real Erin Gruwell and her many students is shown.

Hillary Swank is superb as Erin Gruwell. Jason Finn as Marcus is excellent. Imelda Staunton as Margaret Campbell is excellent. The supporting cast, especially all the students in Ms. G's class, is outstanding.
4 people found this helpful
GiftbearerReviewed in the United States on January 1, 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
Great Story and relevant to current times
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Years ago I remember watching to Sir with Love and it was a movie I never got tired of watching. This one is very similar but I think was written in a more modern way.

Too often inner city kids are given up on but this movie just goes to show that with the right support they can excel. The few teachers that go the extra mile are not appreciated near enough in our society and it's sad that people actually work against them as it showed here with the principal and other teachers, and sadly, her own husband.

It was ludicrous that her husband would even ask her to choose between him and her career and that the trait that was one of her best attributes (her compassion to help kids rise up out of poverty and have a chance at the American Dream) was something he put a negative spin on. I believe if he had truly loved her he would have loved that about her instead of feeling threatened by it because his career was going nowhere. Instead of finding a mission of his own in life he chose to resent hers. I am glad that she didn't let his sulking stop her from doing what she loved and that she was willing to follow her dream even if it meant losing him.

Also, I really liked how she went about breaking down barriers between races by showing the kids other people who had also been oppressed. It's too easy nowadays to think in terms of black versus white, but life is more complex than that and the concepts of slavery, oppression, and injustice were not limited to black and brown, but throughout history man has sought to oppress his fellow man over property, power, and money.

There is a saying "Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it." If we as a society look beyond our own individual plights we can see that what has happened to us is a cycle, and that we are not alone. By understanding historical context we have the power to do something about it, even if that requires an organized effort by many.

This is precisely why education matters, being informed, and further, voting; because what is personal is political and what's political is personal. We can go one of two ways;

1) be a part of the problem, stay stuck in our rage, and have it kill us and those around us

OR

2) Look at what we can do to affect social change, not only for our own lives, but recognizing that what affects one person also affects another, thus have a part in the decision-making process rather than having our futures decided for us. Knowledge truly is power and those of us who have been oppressed can do things, (even little things) to take our power back. This is the most important lesson this teacher taught her students.
One person found this helpful
Honest ReviewsReviewed in the United States on January 12, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
“Freedom Writers”: A Message of Understanding and Acceptance
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Thought to be one of the most heart-warming movies of its year, Freedom Writers is more than a drama; it tackles the hardships and economics of race and gender. On the surface, the movie first appears to be nothing more than a simple story of an optimistic new teacher wanting to help a group of disadvantaged students. However, it is only through her lessons that Ms. Gruwell teachers her students that each person is more than his race or ethnicity and helps them focus on the understanding and acceptance of others. Confronting issues such as the lower socio-economic background of minorities, racism, sexism, and gang-wars, Freedom Writers gives insight into the lives of an underprivileged population.
The movie Freedom Writers is a drama directed by Richard LaGravenese and released in 2007. Its sub-genres include themes strongly centered around the importance of self-worth, overcoming stereotypes, race and ethnicity, socio-economic status, and gender bias. It is based on the real-life stories of Erin Gruwell and her 150 students known as the Freedom Writers. More than just a drama, Freedom Writers is a story of overcoming a world of violence, drugs, fear, and poverty. The movie is meant to convey a message of hope, liberty, understanding, and acceptance.
Freedom Writers is a movie based on a true story that took place in 1994 after the brutal beating of Rodney King. With a city embroiled in constant riots, the students at Woodrow Wilson High School become involved in their own rivalries between black, Asian, and Latino gangs. When first-time teacher, Erin Gruwell, is assigned a class of underprivileged “at-risk” students, she takes it upon herself to ensure that they do not become products of their own environment. After giving the students an assignment of writing daily in a journal, she begins to understand that these students – all of whom deal with many challenges such as being physically or sexually abused, domestic violence, drug or alcohol addiction, homelessness, or race-based gang violence – have a lot in common. It is through these journals that the students begin to open up to “Mrs. G”. She further teaches her students about the Holocaust and uses the remainder of her second year to teach them about the understanding and acceptance of others. Not only does her efforts create a positive learning experience for her students, but it also attracts the media’s attention. Though other teachers considered these students to be unteachable and belligerent, it was through Gruwell’s unorthodox lesson plan that every single one of her students graduated from high school, with half going onto college.
Freedom Writers is a film that has strong themes centered around racial discrimination. In a verdict that stunned Los Angeles, acquitting the four police officers involved in the brutal beating of Rodney King, an uprising spurned a series of riots, lootings, arsons, and civil disturbances. Two years later, in the city of Long Beach, California, racial tensions have reached an all-time high. Tensions that are only worsened after voluntary integration was suggested at Woodrow Wilson High School. It is because of the integration program that the teachers at Woodrow Wilson blame the “at-risk” students for the school’s academic decline. Not only does the integration program throw all the “at-risk” students into one classroom, but in the first four minutes of the film, it’s obvious that Mrs. Campbell judges these students based on racial stereotypes. She believes that because of their socio-economic background, race, and ethnicity, they are incapable of learning and remarks that it’s best for Mrs. Gruwell if she doesn’t wear expensive jewelry to the classroom. It’s not enough that these students were raised to be prejudice toward anyone that is not their same race, but the negative attitude of teachers, such as Mrs. Campbell and Mr. Gelford, is damaging to their self-esteem.
In the Freedom Writers, the city of Long Beach is engulfed in a racial war where blacks, Asians, and Latinos fight one another for gang territory, respect, and personal satisfaction. These wars have carried over from parents to the children that have started their freshman year at Woodrow Wilson High School. With both the school and city are both divided, the children of room 203 have no place they can turn for solace. It is only through the lessons of Mrs. Gruwell that these children begin to see that, despite the color of their skin, they actually have a lot in common and learn to understand and tolerate one another.
Though Freedom Writers focuses on the story of a teacher reaching out to students who were thought to be unteachable, there are obvious moments of scopophilia. For starters, the main character Erin Gruwell, played by Hillary Swank, is objectified in two separate scenes in which the camera focuses on her backside. In the first scene, Gruwell/Swank has her back turned toward the students as she writes something on the blackboard. As she is writing, the camera focuses on a chalk stain on her buttocks and a student make a vulgar comment. Later, the camera once again focuses on her backside as she is taking cookies out of the oven and her husband is staring at her behind. Furthermore, there are additional moments of scopophilia in the costumes of the actors who play the female students. Though LaGravenese does an amazing job keeping the focus of the film on racism and how the children learn to overcome their hatred of other races, the actresses who play the students seem too old for their parts and their attire is better suited for an older teen. The girls in the movie are sexualized, wearing tight-fighting jeans and tank tops. However, in the early to mid-1990s, fashion consisted of either loose-fitting and colorful clothing, tapered pants, sweaters with turtle-necks underneath, and extra-long t-shirts. The hip-hop look of tight jeans and tank tops was not popular until the late 1990s. By sexualizing the women in the movie, LaGravenese has turned them into mere objects to be looked at, rather than subjects with their own voice.
One significant editing technique that is used in Freedom Writers is the montage. The movie starts out with a montage of the L.A. riot footage. Likewise, roughly twenty minutes into the movie, the editor uses similar quick cuts to signify the passage of time. By editing nine different scenes together in the classroom, viewers can see that time is passing and Mrs. Gruwell is slowly losing the student’s interest. As the montage continues, it becomes clear to the viewer that the students are cutting class because of their hatred for their teacher. Finally, the film also uses a cross cut to show multiple scenes happening in different locations but at the same time. A great example is the scene in which Eva and Sindy are getting ready to go out. The scene switches back and forth from both girls as they do their hair and makeup and get dressed to go out with their friends.
From 2Pac’s “Keep your Head Up” to Digable Planets’ “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)” to Montell Jordan’s “This is How We Do It”, Freedom Writers constantly uses hip hop and rap music throughout the entire movie to represent the violence the students face at home and on the streets. The songs are used in such scenes as the shooting of Sindy’s boyfriend and when Alejandro throws his gun away to emphasize the seriousness of each situation. In other scenes, the film uses a softer melody in the background for the meaningful moments, such as when Sindy and Eva finally bond.
LaGravenese makes brilliant uses of visual effects in Freedom Writers. For example, in the scene where Brandy is being beaten by her father, LaGravenese uses a range of camera angles to convey to the viewer how small and defenseless she is compared to her father. By using a high-angel shot, viewers can see how her father dominates the scene and exerts himself as having the highest authority in their household. Additionally, LaGravenese makes use of close-up shots when he wants to draw attention to a character’s facial movements or feelings. In any scene where a character is expressing their personal feelings, the camera always zooms in onto their face. Finally, the camera pans out in scenes where the viewer must pay attention to what’s happening in the background. For example, when students get into a fight in Mrs. Gruwell’s class, the camera is zoomed out and the two students who are fighting are placed far left on the screen. In the center-right of the scene, viewers can see Mrs. Gruwell running out of the classroom to get a security guard.
In conclusion, Freedom Writers is not just a movie about racial wars, with strong themes that center around unity, betrayal, violence, perseverance, and segregation, it’s about how even the most different people can come together in the right environment. It is through Mrs. Gruwell’s perseverance that the students are able to unite after finally understanding and accepting one another. Just as it is through LaGravenese’s clever use of visual effects that the viewer is able to feel what each student went through in their home life.
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