Won't Back Down FeaturedWritten by Jon Patch
20th Century Fox, Walden Media and Gran Via Productions present a 121 minute, PG, drama directed by Daniel Barnz and written by Barnz and Brin Hill with a theater release of September 28, 2012.
Single mother Jamie Fitzpatrick (Maggie Gyllenhaal) works two jobs and raises her daughter Malia (Emily Alyn Lind) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Malia attends 2nd grade at Adams Elementary and struggles with a condition known as dyslexia. Several teachers at Adams are not happy with the fact that some teachers are not doing their jobs and one in particular, Malia’s teacher. The lack of education for a 2nd grade student means that the 3rd grade teachers have to work twice as hard when students’ progress not being able to read and write. Many if not most of the times it ends up not being the students fault but rather the lack of concern by some teachers and while they belong to the union they never fear for their job. One issue with the teachers union, it not only protects the teachers who want to teach but also the ones that don’t nor know how.
Jamie is tired of watching her child be picked on by other students in front of a teacher who doesn’t care so she is determined to make a change. She can’t afford a private school for Malia nor can she transfer her to another public school since there is not room and as for the Principal at Adams Elementary he will not transfer Malia to another class. When Jamie does some research of her own she discovers that she can make a change at Adams Elementary by means of the Fail Safe Law. If she can find a teacher to help her she can turn a school around. She soon thereafter enlists teacher Nona Alberts (Viola Davis) who has a special child of her own, Cody (Dante Brown). After a bit of convincing from Jamie, Nona is on board and out to fight for the education of the child. With 400 parent’s signatures and 18 other teachers from Adams they can hopefully take over the school as non-union and make a difference in their community by changing the F rank on Adams Elementary to a more respectable grade.
After many struggles and tribulations Nona and Jamie start to work on the other teachers, Breena Harper (Rosie Perez), Nona’s best friend, Michael Perry (Oscar Isaac) Jamie’s new love interest and a number of many others in hopes of changing their fears to fight for what’s best for the children. It is a chance for these teachers to be the teachers they have always wanted to be but change is always laced with politics and when the union led by Arthur Gould (Ned Eisenberg) and Evelyn Riske (Holly Hunter) get involved, nothing comes easy except for threats, fears and bribes. Although when Jamie and Nona bend the ear of Olivia Lopez (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) on the school board their fight to make a difference takes another turn but they will need to convince four out of seven of the board members to agree that’s it’s time for change.
In the end truths come out amongst not only family members but school associates as well. All the teachers want to do is teach and change an F school into a higher grade where children will have a chance at their dreams and the hope of one day receiving yet a higher education in college.
I wasn’t sure that I would like this film based on the trailers but I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it and it left me wanting to make a difference myself. Times have changed and the school system is definitely broken especially when we see such a high rate of students not being able to read and write. There are two sides to every story and this film does a fair job of showing both of them. Even though the film plays a bit long the writers do a nice job expressing every little detail of how to taken a broken system and turn it around. Turning it around by the teachers, parents and students who want change and want to learn and want to make a positive change in a child’s life. There are excellent role models in the school system like Nona Alberts and maybe with a little help from the parents and the school system the children of today will grow up to be the role models of tomorrow.
Gyllenhaal really takes control of her role, coming across like the ‘Norma Ray’ of the school system. At times it seems her passion and drive take her body over to the point of obsession making the subject matter very real and definitely in need of change. When it comes down to your child’s welfare and happiness I don’t think anyone could expect any less. Davis once again shines, she was magnificent in “The Help” and truly out does herself again in this role of a mother separated from her husband Charles (Lance Reddick), raising a child and trying to teach and change a broken school system. Every time she showed up in a scene she commanded the audience’s attention. Both leading ladies played off each other bringing truth and belief on the big screen to a cause that obviously plays near and dear to their lives off screen as well. Nice to see Hunter once again even though her role is mediocre it definitely makes a life changing statement to the meaning of right from wrong. A well-cast film with a very important message leaves nothing more than a must see story for any parent that is putting their child through school. Written and appreciated for the light this film shines on a dark subject that will surely cause a controversy in the school system, I give this film two and half paws out of four.
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