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To ma’am with love… Freedom Writers

Oh no, not another white, liberal do-gooder set on single-handedly helping the kids out of the ghetto. Set against the backdrop of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, this is almost a textbook classroom drama, inevitably “based on a remarkable true story” and backed up by a hip-hop score.
But like the surly students under Hilary Swank’s tutelage, most viewers will find it hard to maintain their cynicism for long. By the end you’ll probably want to open doors for her and call her “ma’am”. More about Freedom Writers


Freedom Writers

*** (Cert 12A)

Steve Rose
Friday March 2, 2007
The Guardian

Freedom Writers
To ma’am with love… Freedom Writers

Oh no, not another white, liberal do-gooder set on single-handedly helping the kids out of the ghetto. Set against the backdrop of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, this is almost a textbook classroom drama, inevitably “based on a remarkable true story” and backed up by a hip-hop score.

But like the surly students under Hilary Swank’s tutelage, most viewers will find it hard to maintain their cynicism for long. By the end you’ll probably want to open doors for her and call her “ma’am”.

Article continues
Swank plays Erin Gruwell, a teacher so optimistic she turns up to her first day at school in a sensible skirt-suit and pearls. Confronting her is a rabble of black, Latino and Asian “gangbangers” who don’t respond well to her teaching methods. Of course, they’ll end up reading The Diary of Anne Frank together instead of busting caps in each other’s asses, but the movie works hard for its feelgood narrative.

Swank is winningly naive and goofy, and her attempts to get down with the kids are laughably clumsy. As an exercise in disarming, or manipulating, jaded audiences it’s a success, but beyond that, what do films like this really achieve? Will viewers be inspired to go out and imitate Gruwell? Or are we just happy to feel that somebody else is trying to fix the problem?

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