Review: Won't Back Down

Daniel Barnz’s inspirational film Won’t Back Down, spreads a story of unwavering courage in achieving an uplifting goal and never losing hope in fulfilling a dream that will serve for the betterment of our younger generation. This is a film that poignantly delivers its message, with award winning performances by Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis.

Won’t Back Down seamlessly follows the story of an uneducated, dyslexic single mother named Jamie Fitzpatrick (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal), who is determined to provide her daughter with the best education possible. Her daughter Malia (played by Emily Alyn Lind), who we find out to also be dyslexic, struggles to read, but her tenured teacher could care less. Her despicable teacher is always seen texting during class and surfing the web, lacking any commitment in dedicating her time and attention to her students.  It is so incredibly heart-breaking to see Malia is not only being berated by her cruel teacher, but also the students in her class consistently make fun of her for her constant battle in learning to read. 

Unfortunately, Malia’s mother must send her to John Adams Elementary, a failing inner city public school in Pittsburgh, because she cannot afford to pay for private school tuition. Working two jobs as a used car lot receptionist and bartender, Jamie is relentless in providing nothing but the best for her daughter as she searches for ways to provide her daughter with a flourishing education.

Jamie eventually becomes fed up with Malia’s dreadful teacher who is unwilling to provide extra after school help for her daughter. Thus, Jamie decides to approach another second-grade teacher named Nona (played by Viola Davis), whom she notices conducts her class with deep care and devotion. Nona too has obstacles of her own.  Her marriage is falling apart and her son is also having difficulty in school.

Jamie is ultimately able to persuade Nona into teaming up with her to start a local movement towards revitalizing the failing school. Along the way they must conquer bureaucratic hurdles and the monstrously devilish portrayal of teacher's unions, headed by Evelyn Riske (played by Holly Hunter). 

What really made this movie a must-see is the brilliant performances by Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis. Gyllenhaal’s role as Jamie will undoubtedly go down as one of her most highly acclaimed performances. Gyllenhaal does a phenomenal job of capturing your heart, and you feel such pride and admiration for her character's ability to stand up against everything in the way of providing the best for her daughter. Additionally, Davis gives a breath-taking performance by intricately painting the many colorful sides of Nona. We see her deeply loving and dedicated side for her son and students. We see her distant and cold side with her husband as her marriage crumbles. We see her noble, passionate and hard working side as she works with Jamie to transform the failing school district. Her performance was so perfectly delivered that it will unquestionably touch the heart and soul of each and every viewer.

This is a movie we must all take the time and watch. It is one of those films that will leave a lasting impact. It will hopefully help in paving the way to discussion and foster initiatives in reforming our own   education system.    



Berenice Famili's picture
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