Freedom Writers is a film that I have wanted to see since its release back in 2007 and last night was the night that I finally got round to it. So after waiting four years to watch this film, would it really be as good as I hoped? The answer, in short, is yes.

The story centres around Erin Gruwell (Hilary Swank), an inexperienced teacher thrown in at the deep end when she joins Woodrow Wilson High School teaching Freshman and Sophomore years. Erin’s class is full of people of different backgrounds and ethnicities, nearly all of them in gangs and most of them knowing someone who has been a killed through gang violence. When first joining the class, Erin Gruwell is hated by all of the students, predominantly just for being white, but as the film goes on her character grows and she earns the respect of her students. The students learn what it is to be believed in, to have hope in life, and to know how important life is.

Freedom Writers is a truly heart warming story and at the centre of it all is Erin Gruwell, played excellently by the near perfect Hilary Swank. Erin sees the best in everyone, even her students that the rest of the teachers have already given up hope on, but she knows that she can succeed where the system has failed using her unorthodox methods.

The brilliant Hilary Swank is supported by a large group of younger actors and actresses. April Hernandez stands out in particular as Eva Benitez. Her father is in prison because of gang crime and she now finds herself in the centre of a court case where she must decide between gang identification or her new found friends. When Andre’s (Mario) brother is sent down for fifteen years to life he also finds himself being tempted back into the life he led before he knew Ms Gruwell. It is a shame that a lot of these young actors haven’t done a lot of work since Freedom Writers as this film is evidence that they can act!

There are a couple of things about the movie that start to get annoying after a while. There are hundreds (this might be an exaggeration) of shots of moody looking teenagers staring at someone in a rival gang all the way through the film and we also get plenty of shots outside the school where we are shown all the different groups again and again. We get it okay, the kids are in gangs!

The story holds its own all the way through, the characters and their backgrounds are believable and it is touching to see what a connection this young, inexperienced teacher had with a bunch of no hope students and how she impacted on their lives. I would definitely recommend this to anyone, whatever your taste in films, this is a must see!

Freedom Writers: 8/10

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