Freedom Writers (2007) Film Review

Freedom Writers

Erin Gruwell (Hilary Swank) has become a teacher for idealist reasons, inspired by her father, Steve (Scott Glenn) and supported by her husband, Scott (Patrick Dempsey). However, when she starts teaching in a rough school that has been involved in some kind of integration type scheme around the time of the LA Riots in the early nineties, even they think she may be too far out of her depth. Still, she believes she can make a change in their lives, and the connection is the holocaust (which most of the class had not even heard of).

At first I thought: here’s another one of those films about a rough school where an inexperienced teacher uses unconventional methods to connect to her students much to the annoyance of other staff and school management. But wait; this one is a true story and it is really good. Hilary Swank is fabulous, but it is the way she pushes the students despite their anger and fear and bravado to be more and to have a future beyond the gangs and the streets. And hey, teachers? If you’re looking to teach students resilience and self-belief, this is a good text. Students love it. And they’re sick of Remember the Titans (even though that is also a really good film, I reckon).


Beautiful Creatures (2013) Film Review


Based on a novel by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, Beautiful Creatures is a tale of mystery and magic set in the deep south. Lena Duchannes  (Alice Englert) arrives at school in a small town only to tormented by the popular girls of the school for the rumours of her family’s devil-worshipping past.  The bullying is extreme, but Ethan (Aiden Ehrenreich), a young intellectual who wants to escape the small town life, he is intrigued by her. Despite the warnings of her uncle Marcon (Jeremy Irons), he pursues a relationship with her and strange things happen. One of the problems that is coming up is that it is almost Lena’s 16th birthday, and this is when witches (oh, did I mention that? Sorry, they are all magical witched types) find out if they are good or bad. Plus there is a curse. It’s really all too exciting.

I really did not expect to enjoy this film much. I thought there may have been some fun stuff, but I kind of expected the brooding teenage type thing, like all the Twilight things. Delightfully, there is not too much brooding and in fact, there is quite a bit of humour. Some totally unexpected. And then Emma Thompson appears and I am totally won over. It’s still very much a teenage supernatural film, but a good one.