Reel Reviews | Freedom Writers

by Tim Gordon

When you begin watching Freedom Writers a certain sense of déjà vu washes over you. You know the subject matter; you’ve seen it all before.

The narrative has been around since the introduction of film. So prevalent is the theme that years ago I created a moniker that I could drop all films with this shared lineage into one big barrel.

Mighty Whitey films.

Her students live in gang-infested neighborhoods with carefully marked out territories for each ethnic group. There are dire consequences if you are caught alone in the wrong area. These worries impede on the students’ ability to concentrate in class.

Looking for a way to reach her students, she stumbles on an idea for them to document their harrowing lives and stories into journals. Suddenly the students begin to understand that by telling their stories on paper, they release the anger, understand the confusion and regain their self-esteem and take control of their lives.

Initially, I was surprised that Swank signed on for this role, but she does a nice job of telling Grunwell’s multi-dimensional story. Swank provides just the right mix of awkward goofiness and heartfelt concern to give this film a passing grade.

My only question is if this is based on a true story, how is it possible for Grunwell to teach the same group of students for all four years of high school? In Hollywood, Mighty Whitey can surely do anything.