Heartfelt historical drama promotes empathy, compassion.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Freedom's Path is a Civil War-era historical drama about a White soldier (Gerran Howell) who deserts the Union Army and is saved by a group of Black people, which leads him to learn more about the Black American experience. Expect some strong language, including swear words ("damn," "goddamn") and racial slurs (the "N" word, "monkey"). There's also war violence (deaths in battle) and racially motivated torture, including lynching and point-blank executions with guns. But in the end the film also offers major lessons in empathy and compassion for others.
Moving Film with Historical Lessons
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Beautiful movie with a great story, what is not to like?
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What's the Story?
FREEDOM'S PATH follows William (Gerran Howell), a young White man who goes to fight for the Union Army during the Civil War but deserts after his friend dies. Severely wounded, William is found by Kitch (RJ Cyler), who is Black, and his group. They're also trying to join the war, but, through a series of circumstances, Kitch and William end up alone together and head back to Kitch's family's home. There, William recuperates and learns more about Kitch's life. Their developing friendship impacts William more than he expects, especially once he realizes that paddy roller Silas (Ewan Bremmer) is out to get Kitch.
Is It Any Good?
This drama has a surprisingly nostalgic feel, like films about Black history from the 1980s and '90s. Like Glory, Mississippi Burning, and other films involving White Americans learning about and empathizing with the Black experience before becoming staunch allies, Freedom's Path follows a standard trajectory. And, based on its plot alone, you might think that the movie is reductive, especially considering that the lauded films of the past have in more recent years been criticized for how they used Blackness as an object or tool to teach White characters things they should already know about themselves and others. Those films have also been criticized for centering White characters in an otherwise Black story. While you could certainly say much of the same about Freedom's Path and its focus on White feelings, the film also makes a point to show how Black people have been paramount in their own fight for freedom, whether or not anyone else would help them.
All of that said, the fate of many of the movie's Black characters might raise some eyebrows. Is this another case of Black death being used as a teaching tool? Your answer will depend on how you feel about the film's ending. But, overall, Freedom's Path is a good film that teaches viewers about Civil War-era sentiments regarding the country's racial caste system. It also explores how brotherhood and family ties can be created regardless of race. Cyler and Howell bring depth to their characters, and the supporting cast gives viewers a lasting feeling of warmth and happiness. Evoking these feelings is one of the best ways to teach empathy and compassion.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the role that empathy plays in Freedom's Path. How does William demonstrate empathy and compassion for Kitch and his family?
What lessons does William learn about slavery and the Civil War?
How do William and Kitch demonstrate courage?
What role does violence play in the film? How do the violent scenes in this movie compare to what you might see in an action or fantasy movie? Which has a stronger impact on you?
- In theaters: February 3, 2023
- Cast: Gerran Howell, RJ Cyler, Ewan Bremmer
- Director: Brett Smith
- Studio: Xenon
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Friendship, History
- Character Strengths: Communication, Compassion, Empathy, Humility, Integrity
- Run time: 131 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: February 2, 2023
Our Editors Recommend
Excellent Civil War movie has graphic violence, profanity.
Violence, profanity, lots of tension in Jim Crow crime drama
Outstanding drama about MLK's fight for equal rights.
Classic miniseries is essential viewing for mature teens.
For kids who love meaningful stories
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