Freedomland

Movie review by
Cynthia Fuchs, Common Sense Media
Freedomland Movie Poster Image
This missing child drama is not for kids.
  • R
  • 2006
  • 112 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

White characters (including cops) display racist attitudes toward young black men; black character refers to white police officer's "hillbilly ass" white cop refers to black suspect as a "monkey" cops abuse suspects; a woman describes the history of an instutition where children were abused; a woman has an affair with a married man (off screen); riot at end is framed as rebellion and frustration.

Violence

Descriptions of children's abuse in an institution and a child being buried; imagery includes Brenda's flashback where anonymous carjacker throws her to ground and her hands bleed; she hits her own head in frustration (with fists and against a door); she becomes hysterical in interrogation room and must be restrained; cops beat "suspects" with batons; cops beat suspect, leaving him bloodied and bruised; Lorenzo hits his head against a window, leaving glass broken and a bloody cut; riots break out, burning appliances and buildings.

Sex

Reference to being "knocked up," a woman describes her sexual affair with a neighbor, focusing mostly on her loneliness and desire rather than the phsyical aspects.

Language

Frequent f-words, plus multiple uses of "hell," s-word, and "damn."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

References to drug/alcohol addictions (Brenda and Lorenzo); cops say a young man was spotted with a bag of marijuana (off screen).

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the subject matter of this film is not for kids. It focuses on the upset caused by a missing child, specifically his mother's upset and the social and political chaos that erupts surrounding the crime, which may involve his abduction, injury, or death. One asthmatic character has an episode when his inhaler gives out, and he gasps for air and has to take a panicky shot of adrenalin (soundtrack pounding, fast editing). The film includes violent and bloody imagery, heavy use of profanity (frequent f-words, "hell," s-words, and "damns"), and tense situations (including clashes between an adult brother and sister, and a grieving mother's hallucination of her child in a hospital waiting room). Several characters smoke, refer to drugs, and one looks to be smoking a joint.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bykallion April 9, 2008

depressing

For any parent this might be the worst possible situation. I cannot think of one good reason to watch this, just turn on the 6 o'clock news to hear this h... Continue reading

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What's the story?

Red-eyed, bloodied, and fragile, Brenda (Julianne Moore) wanders through the New Jersey Armstrong Project and arrives at a medical center, where she's surrounded by ER doctors and interviewed by Detective Lorenzo Council (Samuel L. Jackson). She describes what happened as you see it in flashback: She's carjacked and thrown to the ground by a young black man. A few minutes later, she says her four-year-old son was in the backseat. Though he swings into action, Lorenzo intuits immediately that she's not telling the entire truth. As Brenda is haunted, then, so is the culture -- by ghosts of lost children, legacies of abuse and distrust, a looming history of racism. Brenda is burdened at last with speaking some version of "truth." Using language elegiac and perfect and quite unlike her own, she confesses her great sin and the film's great lacuna, a desire for which she pays an impossible price.

Is it any good?

Earnest and overbearing, FREEDOMLAND features mature themes and imagery: It's not for kids. Inspired by the 1994 case in which Susan Smith drowned her two young sons in South Carolina and claimed she had been carjacked by "a black man," the film, based on Richard Price's 1998 novel, attempts to give voice to a Smithlike character as well as some black residents of a New Jersey housing project who are enraged by the white mother's accusation and the assumption by police and journalists alike that her holey story makes sense.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about missing children and efforts to find them. How can media help or hinder this search process? How does racism affect the authorities' responses to the crime story? How does Lorenzo's background -- his incarcerated son, his addictions, his religious faith -- affect his professional choices?

Movie details

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