Won't Back Down Reviews
The performances in the film are great, particularly from Maggie Gyllenhaal as a poor, single mother who wants to get her daughter the best education possible, and Viola Davis, a teacher who has lost her inspiration and struggles to get it back. Oscar Isaac is also good here, but the romantic subplot of him and Maggie Gyllenhaal is where the movie's negatives begin to outweigh the positives.
Aside from the unnecessary romantic suplot, the film also suffers by providing a very one-sided look at the education system. Several of the teachers in this film, particularly the one who teaches Maggie Gyllenhaal's daughter, are the kind of people who shouldn't be teaching in the first place. However, it's implied that they are the primary reason the school is failing. Bad teachers can be a cause of a school failing, but bad parents can also be as well, and I wish the film could have represented that as well.
In real life, teachers unions are not perfect, and like anything, they can fall prey to corruption. However, this film insultingly vilifies teachers' unions to the point that it becomes cartoonish and unrealistic. It's kind of like the anti-Norma Rae. This time, the union is the villain instead of the hero.
Lastly, the film's take on the controversial issue of charter schools is admirable, but also simplistic and naive. It implies that replacing an old, failing school with a new charter school is a scientifically-proven miracle, when in reality, charter school are just like other schools: some are good, and work really well, while others are not.
I guess what I'm trying to ultimately say here is that: fixing educational problems is not a simple issue, and one solution does not automatically fix everything as this film implies. And educational problems do not have one root cause as this film also implies. Next time, filmmakers need to explore BOTH sides of the story. Unlike Star Wars or Harry Potter, this is not the kind of battlefield where there is an absolute clear-cut hero and villain. 5/10.
(Full review coming soon)