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 is a historical film about the Underground Railroad and "Amazing Grace" composer John Newton that's partially based on true events. The film shows the horrifying reality of slavery in pretty graphic detail, including disturbing scenes of slaves chained together on slave ships, slaves being whipped and branded, and one slave hanging from a tree. Slave trackers also carry guns, and multiple characters die, including one who's fatally shot. Profanity includes "bitch," "damn," and one use of the "N" word. In contrast to the horrifying violence, there's also a plethora of positive role models (some real, some fictional) who risk their lives to guide escaped slaves along the Underground Railroad. There's also a strong religious undertone to the film, which may be off-putting to nonreligious viewers.
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What's the story?
Slaves Samuel (Cuba Gooding Jr.); his mother, Adira (Phyllis Bash); his wife, Vanessa (Sharon Leal); and his son, Jim have escaped from their Virginia plantation on the Underground Railroad. Aided by abolitionist Thomas Garrett (Michael Goodwin), the family frantically tries to stay one step ahead of famed slave tracker Plimpton, who's been hired by the plantation owner to catch them. On their journey, Adira relates the story of her great-grandfather Ozias (Jubilant Sykes), who was on a slave ship with John Newton (Bernhard Forcher), a captain who's urged by his fiancée to think of his conscience and stop trafficking slaves. Though Samuel and his family struggle to keep their hope and faith alive on their journey to freedom, Newton discovers the humanity in all people.
Is it any good?
FREEDOM could have been a wonderful movie, but ultimately it misses the mark. It has two compelling story lines that, unfortunately, feel cobbled together and make for a disjointed, awkward film. Some moments are magic, such as Samuel's family being hidden from slave trackers by an over-the-top theater troupe. And music is beautifully woven throughout, with almost all the main characters singing haunting or uplifting tunes at various points. But the religious message of finding your faith feels forced, and the actors who should be the most engaging (Cuba Gooding Jr. as Samuel and Bernhard Foucher as Newton) are wooden and one-dimensional.
The message that slavery is wrong and everyone should be treated equally is beautifully presented, and parents wishing to share this message with teens and introduce them to the history of the abolitionist movement might consider this film. But they should definitely also consider the graphic (though historically accurate) violence before showing it to younger or more sensitive teens.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the historical figures who are featured or mentioned in the film, such as Thomas Garrett, Frederick Douglass, and Harriet Tubman. Why do you think they all risked their lives to help slaves escape to freedom?
What do you know about the Underground Railroad? How can you learn more?
Music plays a large role in Freedom. Why do you think music was so important to all the characters? Besides "Amazing Grace," did you recognize any other songs in the film?