Review: “Harriet”

“Harriet” is set for general release on November 1st, 2019; photo courtesy of: Circle Cinema

Film director Kasi Lemmons, known for her work on the film “Eve’s Bayou”, returns to the silver screen with the biographical drama “Harriet. Based on the life of American abolitionist Harriet Tubman, the film showcases Tubman’s struggles to become the “Moses of her people.” The general release for the film is Nov. 1st. However, Circle Cinema is hosting an advanced screening on Oct. 31 at 7 pm.

The film is described as a biographical drama. It beautifully depicts Tubman’s life in slavery and her ambitious escape to freedom. The film is shot smoothly to offer an effortless viewing experience for the audience, which allows for the focus to remain on the plot rather than production. It features an array of highly acclaimed actors. Tony award-winning actress and Grammy award-winning musician Cynthia Erivo plays Harriet Tubman. Erivo is best known for her role as Celie in the Broadway revival of “The Color Purple.” Erivo stars besides Leslie Odom, Jr., who plays William Still; Janelle Monae, who plays Marie Buchanon; and Joe Alwyn, who plays Gideon Brodess.

Janelle Monáe as Marie Buchanon; Photo credit: Focus Features

The film was well cast. Erivo perfectly embodied Harriet Tubman. Erivo captivates the audience with her beautifully convincing performance. Erivo’s performance is practically flawless. Viewers will feel as though they are watching Harriet Tubman’s journey through the Underground Railroad in real time beside her. Another outstanding performance was Monae’s role as Marie Buchanon. Monae is mostly known for music, having began her career as a singer. In the film, Monae plays the eloquent and gorgeous Marie Buchanon. Buchanon was born a free black woman and is introduced as the owner of a housing business for recently escaped female slaves.

Monae gives an outstanding performance. She portrays a strong, black woman who feels the need to assist her people who were in bondage. Although she is a supporting actress, her character adds brightness to a film with a slightly melancholy theme. Monae’s role as Marie Buchanon is also very necessary. In order to understand the development of Harriet Tubman’s character from a meek yet ambitious slave into a strong freedom fighter, audience members need Marie Buchanon. She is one of the few women who helped inspire Tubman to continue  fighting against injustice. As a supporting character, she does not have as much screen time. Despite this, Monae’s performance allows for viewers to feel her impact throughout the entire film. Marie Buchanon leaves a lasting impression on the audience.

Cynthia Erivo (Harriet Tubman) and Leslie Odom Jr. (William Still); Photo credit: Focus Features

Overall, the film was exceptional. “Harriet” is not a typical slave movie nor is it a typical biographical movie. It is exquisitely shot and perfectly written. The cast was chosen with very strong attention to detail. Everything, from the set design to the costumes, was carefully put together to paint an authentic feel and experience. “Harriet” is a film that encapsulates the audience and forces them to feel every emotion that is exuded in the storyline. Kasi Lemmons and Gregory Allen Howard, co-writer of the screenplay alongside Lemmons, splendidly depict the life and times of Harriet Tubman and developed a film that is completely worth seeing.