Harriet. In Search of Freedom (2019), by Kasi Lemmons – Review

Perhaps being a biopic portraying slavery, a tearful drama was expected. However, it hardly lets the story rest. It has more thriller overtones for its dynamism of constant flight.

Harriet It is an inspiring story, based on real events and with a documentary background, attractive labels for the public. It's epic at times and commercial enough, but it could have been more. Therefore, it leaves the path open and already plotted to produce other versions and, above all, in other formats.

Chronologically it portrays important moments of the 19th century in the United States: the massive flight of Afro-descendants through the "underground railway", the abolition of slavery and the Civil War. The latter is treated in just ten minutes at the end, in addition, only Harriet's role in defending women's suffrage and civil rights is mentioned before the credits. Knowing the role it played in both causes, it could have been shown to a greater extent.

Harriet runs away from the farm where she was born, raised, and worked in Virginia. Later, he decides to help relatives and acquaintances flee, 150 people in total, accompanying them to freedom in Philadelphia. Furthermore, Harriet is – even today – one of the few women who has led a military operation in the United States.

It stands out mainly for the good intention of honoring this figure.

Its main protagonist, Cynthia Erivo Bad times at the Royale Y Widows (2018) -, she was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe for her outstanding performance. In addition, Erivo has written and sung the title track of the soundtrack, Stand up, also nominated for these awards.

Perhaps as a biopic that portrays slavery and other difficult experiences – such as persecution or uprooting – a tearful drama was expected. However, it hardly lets the story rest twice and therefore it has more thriller overtones due to its dynamism of constant flight. The drama is featured in some scenes with the hostel owner, Marie (Janelle Monáe), or Harriet's sister, Rachel (Deborah Ayorinde).

Something that can get the viewer out of the movie are those moments where Harriet passes out and remembers the same two scenes from her past. It is repetitive and gives an almost telefilm aesthetic appearance, with a poorly aged blue filter. The general feeling of the film is that it sometimes focuses on sentimental aspects without getting more emotion, abandoning details that could have more travel. In other words, it stands out mainly for the good intention of honoring this figure.

Erivo is comfortable and decisive, showing a serene and resilient character. Harriet was so different from what was expected of her that Moses, her cover, was believed to be a painted white man. The soundtrack also stands out, for compositions such as Goodbye Song, who sing in the plantations or the Church, and accompany the protagonist constantly.

Harriet recalls, by chronology and the strength of its characters, to 12 years of slavery (2013). And if you want to know more about his life, we recommend the miniseries A Woman called Moses (1978).


Synopsis Story based on abolitionist Harriet Tubman, who freed numerous slaves after escaping slavery herself in 1849.
Address Kasi Lemmons
Script Gregory Allen Howard, Kasi Lemmons
country U.S
Distribution Cynthia Erivo, Joe Alwyn, Janelle Monáe, Leslie Odom Jr., Deborah Ayorinde, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Tim Guinee, Clarke Peters, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Tory Kittles
Gender Drama
Duration 125 min.
Original title Harriet
Premiere 03/06/2020

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