Friday Film Review--"Harriet"
Wendy Gourley has this week’s Friday Film Review, and says that “Harriet” is a beautiful and remarkable film biography.
From the first captivating frames of brewing skies and rolling mist, we see this will be a stormy story of things hidden and revealed. And what is revealed at the heart of this story is a woman’s fierce determination to be free or die. Harriet tells the story of Harriet Tubman, a slave woman who walked 100 miles to her own freedom, and then went back for others, becoming one of the most successful conductors on the Underground Railroad.
The film is beautifully told by writer and director, Kasi Lemmons, and centers on a remarkable performance by Cynthia Erivo as Tubman. The rich cinematography and swelling musical score, not to mention the trailer that makes Harriet almost look like a superhero, makes the movie feel like heightened reality, yet, by and large, the things in the movie really did happen.
Harriet did sing to the slaves from the edge of the woods as a signal to start running. Harriet did pull her gun on runaways who threatened the safety of the group, and Harriet did have epileptic-like spells where she believed she got messages from God that led her to safety. And she did lead, by different accounts, between 70 and 300 people from slavery to freedom and never lost a single soul. No need for special effects or super-powers, Harriet’s story stands on its own.
In the movie, someone asks Harriet what it’s like when God speaks to her and she answers “Sometimes it stings, like a smack in the face. Other times it’s soft like a breeze, gone before you’re sure you’ve felt it--like a dream that flies off soon as you awake.” Watching this movie is similar. It’s ethereal and earthy—transcendent and tragic—heartless and hopeful.
Harriett runs a seamless 2 hours and 5 minutes and is rated PG-13 for violence and language. Erivo is supported by a very strong cast with standout performances by Leslie Odom Jr and Janelle Monae.