Laura Martin ’14 / Emertainment Monthly Editor
Won’t Back Down is a look into the life of a mother and daughter experiencing a bigger story we as an audience already know all too well: the disappointing state of the education system in America. Jamie Fitzpatrick (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a woman on a mission from the get-go to ensure her daughter receives the academic attention she needs. Jamie’s daughter Malia, played by an adorable Emily Alyn Lind, suffers as a result of the poor attitude of not only her classmates but her lackluster teacher. But Malia’s mother has had enough, and she will stop at nothing until Malia is either enrolled at a superior institution or her current school is reformed, from the ground up. After several attempts at the former, Gyllenhaal does not settle for the latter but rather embraces it with full force, partnering with Nona Alberts, a teacher at Malia’s school who seeks change at heart as well.
Nona Alberts is played by Viola Davis, and while her performance is convincing and well done, it seems it will certainly be difficult for Davis to outdo her phenomenal role as Aibileen Clark in The Help. Davis’ character, although hesitant at first, joins Jamie in the fight to take back the school. But this fight is just that: a fight, as they are met with adversity from students’ parents, teachers, the school board, and the teachers union.
If Won’t Back Down does anything for us, it reminds us and reiterates the notion that education is for the benefit of the child, and no one else. However the well-being of the teachers as well as the parents always comes into play, as the teachers union serves as a relentless obstacle for Gyllenhaal and Davis throughout the film. But we are not unfamiliar with these problems: Won’t Back Down is not a groundbreaking, revolutionary idea given center stage and allowed a microphone. Rather, it is a reiteration of an ongoing struggle in the United States today. Education reform is a significant issue and need in America, and Won’t Back Down serves as the newest way of saying that.
If anything, the predictability of the movie is where it may disappoint: we could watch the trailer and get a general gist of the entire film and assume the cliché ending it indeed concludes with. Kid suffers from the system, mom wants to reform the school, teacher agrees to help mom reform the school, and, shocker, the school is reformed. You may not be blown away by this movie, but you will likely find it enjoyable. Gyllenhaal brings yet another great performance to the table as the concerned mother anyone would want and Viola Davis serves us up the teacher everyone hopes
See it: If you’re looking for a feel-good drama or are interested in the issues surrounding education reform.
Don’t see it: If you don’t enjoy the sense of predictability in a film or tend to stray from cliché plots or endings.