HARRIET – A Review by Cynthia Flores
The lead for the new film Harriet is actually a brilliant British singer and Tony-winning stage actress who burst onto the West End and Broadway stages in 2015’s musical The Color Purple. She then jumped to the big screen with parts in two 2018 films, Widows and Bad Times at the El Royale. Now she is the star of this new film Harriet. The film is based on the actual thrilling and inspirational life of the iconic American freedom fighter Harriet Tubman.
The film begins before she was known as Harriet and went by her slave name Minty (Cynthia Erivo). The Brodess family owns Minty and her family on their plantation. They refuse to acknowledge that grandfather Brodess had willed them their freedom years ago. Furthermore, if it were not for young Gideon Brodess (Joe Alwyn) standing up for Minty she, too. would have been sold off to another plantation with two of her sisters to help raise money for the farm. Gideon and Minty have been friends of sorts since childhood. No longer able to be a salve to people that did not even respect the fact that they had been given their freedom by the courts, Minty decides to escape. She does this alone without her husband and experiences terrible hardships on the way. She also encounters great kindness from whites who are antislavery activists that provide safe houses and help escaped slaves make the long trek to freedom. Minty manages to make it to the freedom fighters in the East. It’s there she meets William Still (Leslie Odom Jr.) and is allowed to choose her freed name. She was married at the time so that is where Tubman came from, and she chose Harriet because it was her mother’s name.
The rest of the film covers the extraordinary tale of her transformation into one of America’s greatest heroes, abolitionist, and political activist. She chose to return thirteen more times on missions to rescue approximately seventy enslaved people, including family and friends using the now infamous Underground Railroad. During this time her fame spread as they called her “Moses” because she was setting her people free.
The film also covers the part of her life when Harriet was the first woman to lead an armed expedition in war as part of the Union army. She led the raid at Combahee Ferry, which liberated more than seven hundred more slaves. Her courage, Ingenuity, and tenacity freed hundreds of slaves in total and changed the course of history.
I am so glad that the filmmakers chose to bring this great woman’s life to the big screen. Harriet Tubman is someone that we all read about in school but we were never taught what a badass she truly was. The movie chose to focus on her and not just the brutalities that slaves of that era were living in. Because of this, the film comes across a little light in the gravitas column but I understand their decision. Harriet Tubman led a big life once she was free and with so much to cover I can see how daunting a task it would be to please everyone. The best thing the filmmakers did was to cast Cynthia Erivo as the lead. It’s her voice you hear singing the powerful song she co-wrote called “Stand Up” that plays as the credits roll by at the end of the film.
I give Harriet a B+ rating. It does a solid but not brilliant job of bringing this American hero to life on the big screen.
Directed by Kasi Lemmons
Written by Gregory Allen Howard, Kasi Lemmons
Selig Rating B+
Running Time 2hr 5min
Wide Release November 1st
Starring: Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr, Joe Alwyn, Clarke Peters, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Omar J Dorsey, Vondie Curtis Hall, Henry Hunter Hall, Janelle Monae
The Selig Rating Scale:
A – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
B – Good movie
C – OK movie
D – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
F – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it.