Yesterday we had to decide which one-word, proper noun Hollywood movie we would go to see with friends. It was a tough call, but ultimately we decided on Harriet over Judy and Joker.
Harriet tells the story of Harriet Tubman, the legendary woman who escaped slavery and then devoted her life, and risked her own personal freedom, to help other slaves — ultimately, dozens of them — make their way to liberty via the Underground Railroad. Harriet Tubman is an American historical figure whose courage and fortitude should always be remembered, and her story is well worth telling. Harriet does an excellent job of capturing the brutality and inhumanity of the slave-holding system in the Old South, and stage actress Cynthia Erivo gives a brilliant portrayal of the brave, stubborn woman who shed her slave name of “Minty” and blazed her own trail in a crusade for freedom.
Of course, movies can be expected to add their little story-telling flourishes to actual history, and Harriet has its share of familiar Hollywood plot devices. (You can read about some of the liberties taken with the actual historical record here.) But the movie doesn’t shy away from the ugliness of slavery, nor does it give short shrift to Harriet Tubman’s intense religious faith and belief that the seizures she experienced were communications from the Almighty. In fact, you would be hard pressed to identify other recent Hollywood fare where Christian beliefs played such a central role in the story.
Harriet is well worth seeing — and hopefully, it causes young people who might not be familiar with the life and work of Harriet Tubman to learn more about an extraordinary woman who did extraordinary things.