Chronicle Review: ‘Freedom Writers’ tells inspiring story

By on February 7, 2007

The storyline behind “Freedom Writers” may not be original, but it manages to tell a powerful story. “Freedom Writers” is inspired by a true story and focuses on a group of young teens who seem to care about little other than defending their gangs and their neighborhood.

Erin Gruwell, played by Hilary Swank, is a young, white, wealthy teacher from Laguna Beach, Calif. who finds herself teaching a racially diverse classroom at a violent and gang-ridden high school. At first, Gruwell has absolutely no clue as to how to reach these troubled teens, but she is determined to find a way.

Gruwell knows that she must connect with the students in her English class, who are all one step away from dropping out of high school. Gruwell realizes she must go above and beyond what is expected of a typical teacher if she is going to change her students’ attitudes. She devotes her life to her class and even takes on part-time jobs in order to pay for books that will challenge her students to think “outside of the box.”

However, reaching these students is not an easy task for the na’ve young teacher. She challenges them to write about their dark pasts and all of the hardships they have experienced so that she can get to know them better. Through their journal entries the students realize there is a way out of the ghetto and that a life that doesn’t involve drugs and gangs does exist. When Gruwell assigns her class the assignment of reading “The Diary of Anne Frank,” they become inspired by the misfortunes she was able to overcome, which allows the students to recognize the parallels between Frank’s life and their own.

All of the actors portraying the students captured the reality of troubled teens. This film teaches a powerful lesson and gives hope to all those who will see it. Swank portrays the upbeat and determined Gruwell perfectly, and the relationship Swank’s character has with her students is incredibly realistic.

The sub-stories that explain many of the student’s hard lives keeps the film flowing and helps make the story even more emotional. These storylines help explain how each one of these troubled teens came to be the way they are.

“Freedom Writers” emphasizes the impact one person can have on a group of people while not only changing the lives of others, but their own as well.


About Janine Elliot