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January 2007


by Krista Vitola


Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Director: Richard LaGravenese
Screenwriter: Richard LaGravenese
Cinematographer: Jim Denault
Composer: Mark Isham & RZA
Cast: Hilary Swank, Scott Glenn, Imelda Staunton, Patrick Dempsey, Mario, Jason Finn, April Hernandez, Jacklyn Ngan, Kristin Herrara, Hunter Parrish
Rated PG-13 for violent content, some thematic material and language.




“You all have a voice, and that voice should be heard,” echoes the words of Hilary Swank, who plays a first year teacher at Wilson High School (a voluntarily integrated school in Long Beach, California). It is her voice that is the first one to reach these troubled teens, a group of Black, Latino, and Asian gangbangers who hate her even more than each other, and whose lives revolve around violence, the projects, and the inability to succeed in an educational setting. This class, which is known as Rm. 203 in the film, has been put on a track to failure and the wall of communication between the teacher and these students has been getting thicker and thicker, until now.

The film is based on a true story, telling the tale of Erin Gruwell (Swank) who decides to make a change among her first year English students by creating unique lesson plans that directly applied to their lives, listening to their stories and allowing them to release their anger and battles of everyday life in a confidential notebook. Through her desire to truly understand these students comes their respect for her and eventually her ability to teach them. Following the journey through both their first and second years of high school, audiences see how these students learn about literature thought the battles of others in history and begin to understand that everyone is important, everyone is a hero, and everyone has a right to live. Through this understanding these students grow and respect one another, which is a huge step from where they were when they first started high school.

The cast of characters, including Patrick Dempsey, Scott Glenn, and Imelda Staunton and R & B singer Mario create an emotional environment full of the complications between jobs and relationships, the obstacles of color, class, and socioeconomic status in education, and what ultimately happens when one goes against the norm and fights for the voices that have too long been silent. Each actor adds a different type of personality, a different voice, to the difficult situations in life. Richard LaGravenese recreates the magic of one women’s journey in rejecting old rules and giving her students, young teenagers, the courage to know that their lives matter, that all lives matter no matter where they come from. An emotional rollercoaster, the film shows audiences how enlightened and truly beautiful our lives can be when one looks beyond the superficial and into the hearts of others.