Photo Credit: Kerry Hayes/Walden Media
Won't Back Down is the empowering and inspirational story of a mom who wants a better education for her daughter, a teacher who wants a better school for her students, and their mission to band together to turn around their failing school. Starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Rosie Perez, and Holly Hunter, this film is one of the best movies that I have seen this year.
Set in a gritty area of Pittsburgh, the film opens with a scene in which Malia (played by Emily Alyn Lind), a struggling second-grade student, attempts to read a sentence from the blackboard aloud in front of her class at Adams Elementary School. Your heart pounds along with hers as she tries to sound out the letters to formulate the words, and you become both sad and infuriated when you watch the reactions of the other students and the total disinterest on the part of her teacher.
WATCH: A Preview of "Won't Back Down"
As the movie unfolds, you learn that Malia's school principal is apathetic, and the other teachers at the school are discouraged after years of trying to teach kids who were advanced into their classes without regard to their school performance. At a nearby charter school where Malia's mom, Jamie (played by Gyllenhaal), shows up to secure a place for Malia in a better classroom through the annual school lottery, she meets Nona (played by Davis), who is a teacher at Adams, but who is also hoping to find a spot for her own son in the charter school where he would have a better chance to succeed. Neither mom is successful in securing that elusive charter school position, but what follows is the story of how Jamie and Nona figure out how they can work together and build a consensus of parents and teachers to change the administration, direction, and the future for Adams Elementary School.
While this movie is loosely based on real-life events where a so-called parent-trigger law has been used in an attempt to turn around the failing Desert Trails Elementary School in Adelanto, Calif., the movie's version of events is fictionalized. And the film certainly isn't without its share of controversy. Critics feel that the movie's portrayal of the teachers' union as a group only interested in preserving the status quo for the teachers with total disregard for the outcome of the students is harsh and unfair. And certainly some teachers in the movie are shown as disinterested in the welfare of their students and downright cruel in their actions. But if you can put aside the real-life comparisons, this movie is about the strength and conviction of moms to fight for and do what they think is best for their children against whatever obstacles stand in their way.
I fell in love with this film, not only because the story was so inspirational, with the idea that parents and teachers can work together to turn around failing schools, but also because the characters were so compelling. We saw their deep dedication and love for their children (every mother can see themselves in these women), and we saw how their past personal failures hung heavily over their lives and affected how they parented and their relationships with others.
I highly recommend that you book the babysitter for Saturday night and head to the theaters. You'll leave inspired and ready to change the world!
WATCH: Viola Davis' Ideal Date Night? Sitting in the Jacuzzi!