There is a long list of people who deserve a movie about them, but most are waiting for the right storyteller to bring it to cinematic life. These stories help remind people of the great or sometimes evil things people may do, so that we never forget. For me that short list would include Harriet Tubman and the extraordinary things she did and whose story is long overdue for a telling.
Harriet (Cynthia Erivo ), lives on a farm with her family, but freedom is just a word for her and her kin. Her husband and father think they have found a way for her to be free, but her master crushes that idea with just words. It seems Harriet has been the favorite of her master’s son, Gideon (Joe Alwyn), but those days are over as well. After her master dies, Harriet becomes a liability and when she hears she is being put up for sale she decides the only thing to do is run. Now for a women who can’t read to run over a hundred miles to safely is no small task, but Harriet has a way to see the danger before it happens. While most people would be happy with winning their freedom, Harriet was not, and a year after securing hers, she wants to go back and help her family escape as well. With each trip Harriet becomes more comfortable with the lay of the land and soon she is being called “Moses” as she leads more and more of her people to freedom. Even when everything seems to be against her succeeding, she still finds a way and becomes one of the most important people in American History.
It wasn’t that long ago when the line between movies in the cinema and ones that play on TV were separated by a large gap. Everything about a “TV” movies felt like a lesser version of a real film, from their budgets, to their cast, it just felt smaller. That has changed over the years and now there are things on TV just as grand as what you will find sometimes in the theater. I bring this up because Harriett felt like those old TV movies and not in a good way. I mean sure there are some good things about it, lead by Cynthia Erivo’s performance and the way the story is presented, but everything else just feels like a lesser version than it deserves. I am sure that is not what director Kasi Lemmons ( Eve’s Bayou) intended, but nonetheless, that is how it feels watching it. From its cast, that lacks any real stars and a score by Terence Blanchard that is, to put it nicely, not very good, Harriett can never shake the old “TV” movie feel. I really wanted this to be good, as I thought Harriett Tubman deserved a movie about her life, but this is not the one. Someone as great as Tubman deserves something more grand, but we got is something far from it.