by Michael Renouf
British actress Cynthia Erivo stars in the title role of Harriet – the true story of a slave who ran away from her abusive masters and then bravely left her new home of Philadelphia to return south to free other slaves, time after time.
“Minty,” as she was known in her early years, is working for the Brodess family while her husband works as a free man for an altogether different boss. When they approach Minty’s owners to have her family released, the patriarch of the family’s response leaves her in no doubt that she must leave. She makes the 100 mile journey north thanks to luck, determination and the help of people both black and white to the safe haven of Pennsylvania. Once there, she grows restless and misses her family in her new life as Harriet Tubman and so with the help of the Underground Railroad she rescues many other slaves from their appalling fate.
Harriet covers many of the major events of her life but her efforts in the civil war were covered in a 5-minute section of the film, when I feel this deserved more attention. Also, although Harriet was known to have visions – caused by a childhood accident and her deeply religious upbringing – I found the way director Kasi Lemmons portrayed this made her feel like a superhero rather than the brave, strong-willed, resourceful, and highly motivated women she was.
The film had some fine acting especially from the leading lady Erivo as well as Janelle Monae as Marie Buchanon and Henry Hunter Hall as Walter. The latter may only have been cast because his mom was the director but for me he was a good choice. Unfortunately, although the movie was a good introduction to a fascinating story for those like myself who did not know much about the subject matter, it could have been so much more. I reluctantly can only give 3.5 stars out of 5.0 when I desperately wanted to give it more.
This week’s star of the show can only be the real life Araminta Ross who not only inspired this film but many generations that followed.
Fine acting and a great subject matter but the movie itself seems rushed.