A driven teacher striving to keep her gang-affiliated teens out of the gutter. Surely that genre’s been stuffed to the gills already? Yes, this latest truth-based yarn does involve an idealistic chalk-twitcher (Hilary Swank) trying to corral some dangerous minds in the blackboard jungle before someone’s capped in a 187. But when it lifts its head from the clichéd waters of the noble-educator, Freedom Writers can actually lay claim to some decent moments.
But be warned: you do have to wade through some hoary plot-beats (the disapproving school wrinklies, a strained marriage, gang colours blinding the otherwise smart students to the authors within). Stomach these old chestnuts, though, and the device of using the kids’ personal stories delivers more honest uplift than many previous efforts. It may only deserve a C for achievement, but it ranks a B+ for effort.