“Be the change that you wish to see in the world”- Mahatma Gandhi
This quote, which has represented growth for so many who wish for a better quality of life served as the heartbeat for the upcoming film "Won’t Back Down" starring Academy-Award nominees, Maggie Gyllenhaal (Jamie Fitzpatrick) and Viola Davis (Nona Alberts).
Jamie Fitzpatrick is a concerned and determined mother of a dyslexic third-grade daughter who has seen her share of disgruntled teachers and bullies at Adams Elementary, an inner-city school that provides a lackluster education for its students. Viola Davis stars as Nona Alberts, a dedicated teacher whose personal life unravels, sparking a domino effect of tragedies with her own child’s education. The two women somehow find one another and band together to break down an already broken school system so that it may be rebuilt into a well-oiled machine of knowledge.
To say that this film is a “shout out” to our teachers of public education in America is to not give it proper justice. When you send your kids to school everyday, you never realize that the professionals who make the daily sacrifice and dedicate themselves to shaping and molding young, (and oftentimes resistant) minds everyday are the real superheroes of America. When was the last time you paid for your own supplies at the office or took a call from your employees or boss at dinnertime to make sure the work was done right? That’s the plot of many real teachers in America, who just aren’t in it for the money…because there just isn’t much to go around.
What I truly appreciated about Won’t Back Down was the variety of viewpoints that were presented through the storyline. You become familiar with the experience of a failing school through the eyes of a troubled student, the teacher who gives until it hurts, the disgruntled educator, the political school board official, the concerned parent and those administrators who fight with their own conscience about the right and wrong paths in public education.
I thought it was befitting that the school was aptly named “Rosa Parks Elementary,” serving as a foreshadowing for seemingly impossible obstacles that needed to be overcome. The combination of Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal, two actresses who have undoubtedly earned their stripes in the industry, lead to a film that was truly believable and relatable.
What I did find particularly interesting in "Won’t Back Down" was the subtle nuances I caught (or possibly assumed) in the script and props that might have seemed like a gentle push for America’s upcoming presidential election. In one scene, Jamie (Gyllenhall) presents Nona (Davis), her partner in crime, with a plastic tub bearing a sticker with the words “Yes We Can” in bold letters. Ironically, this is the same campaign slogan used in the 2008 presidential election by the Obama campaign. It could’ve been a coincidence since that phrase simply fits within the goal of the mothers out to change education at Adams Elementary. Did it work? Well, I did just mention it. There’s another, less subtle hint in the final frame of the movie that could be construed as the same type of message, but I’ll let you judge that one for yourself.
It’s been a while since I had seen a film that had the warmth of a Disney classic combined with the realism of a reality show and a touch of evening primetime drama. I was left with a feeling of satisfaction and triumph as the film drew to credits.
I highly recommend that you and the family take the time to see “Won’t Back Down.” Whether you have school-aged kids or not, this film deserves your support and attention. Viola Davis delivers strong as Nona Alberts in another wig-wearing dramatic performance (Davis recently told Jay Leno she rarely does anything without a wig).
Maggie Gyllenhaal will win you over as Jamie Fitzpatrick and you’ll find yourself engulfed in her unapologetic soliloquies of determination, carefully delivered by a mother and a fighter for education and justice.
Won’t Back Down begins in theaters nationwide on Friday, September 28, 2012. Watch the movie trailer below.