Freedom Writers - Review - Freedom To Be

It was a war zone.  Not Israel or Iraq but Long Beach, California where gangs ruled and every journey out of the safety of your house could be your last. 

Jamal (Deance Wyatt) and Andre (Mario) spar off

Idealistic Erin Gruwell (Hillary Swank), fresh out of teaching college, was not to be deterred.  The perky cheerleader had already decided that she was going to make a difference in the lives of her students.  Even the remarks of her staid conservative superior, Margaret Vail (Imelda Staunton) describing the kids of room 203 cannot dampen her drive and enthusiasm. 

Freedom Writer's Margaret and Erin

Erin quickly learns that these kids are the 'untouchables:' poverty-ridden, gang-infested, drug-addicted, family members incarcerated and hopeless.  Attempting to get them books that they will be interested in, she realizes that the school was wherehousing them, saying that they were being educated, but only barely tolerating them.  As the junior English teacher says, 'The best thing about them is that there are fewer and fewer by the time they get to junior and senior year.'

Brian Gelford (John Benjamin Hickey) and Margaret (Imelda Staunton) gang up against Erin

Like the external society, the teens have segregated themselves into sections in the classroom, ignoring their eager teacher who tries as she might cannot seem to get through to them.  It's not until one of her students, Eva (April Hernandez)

Freedom Writer's Eva

witnesses a shooting and a humiliating cartoon of a black student is circulated, does Erin realize just how much on the line each and every student's life is daily and how very isolated they are.   Despite living their own version of prejudice and racial hatred not one of the kids knows about the Holocaust. 

Despite the arguments of her father (Scott Glenn) and her husband Scott (Patrick Dempsey), she takes not one but two part time jobs to earn extra money so that she, herself, can personally buy the books for her kids to read. 

Freedom Writer's Marcus (Jason Finn)

Introducing them to the fact that racial hatred and prejudice creates problems universally and that they are not alone, Erin gives each of them journals to record their own private struggles and gives them the freedom to write without being graded or judged. Their outpourings and their reaction to The Diary of Anne Frank overwhelms her as she wrangles a special trip to the Museum of Tolerance.  Treating the kids as if each of them mattered,

FreedomWriter's Andre (Mario)

Erin slowly breaks through their shells and teaches them that each can make a difference if only they do the right thing.  Erin learned the true struggle that the kids faced on the streets and made homeroom a safe haven for them to be themselves.   Soon opposites like Sindy (Jaclyn Ngan) and Eva are making peace. 

Eva(April Hernandez) and Sindy (Jaclyn Ngan) making peace

The camaraderie between the kids and Erin continues to grow as her own marriage falls apart. When you are committed to something there is always a sacrifice on some level.  Nothing comes easy. 

Even with the success of her kids, Erin must still prove her worth before the board when the class asks to have her continue their journey with them.

Take some tissues, you're going to need it.   Buy when it comes out on DVD.  It's a keeper.   

freedom Writer's Scott and Erin

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