Harriet: Film Review

Harriet hit headlines when the casting of Cynthia Erivo was announced, as people were annoyed about a British woman portraying the famous African-American slave-turned-abolitionist Harriet Tubman, but she’s honestly the best thing about the film.

The biopic follows the life of Araminta ‘Minty’ Ross from when she escapes slavery at the Brodess farm in Maryland and travels 100 miles on her own to Philadelphia, where William Still (Leslie Odom Jr) gives her clothes and a new name – Harriet Tubman – and Marie Buchanon (Janelle Monae) gives her a place to live and finds her a job. However, Harriet cannot find peace knowing her husband and family are back at the farm so sets out to free them and as many slaves as she can, trying to evade Gideon Brodess (Joe Alwyn) in the process.

I was fully expecting Harriet to have me in floods of tears. I was prepared for this moving story about the infamous abolitionist, who helped free hundreds of slaves using the Underground Railroad. Therefore I was disappointed by how mediocre and conventional the film was. It made me not want to invest or care in her journey. It’s such a shame because Tubman’s life deserves a more compelling biopic.

It did have some good moments. I particularly liked her arrival in Philadelphia and montages of her freeing slaves and becoming the famous slave liberator Moses. But I didn’t enjoy Harriet speaking to God and the action cutting to her premonitions as these were jarring and distracting. They were unnecessary.

Erivo made a splash last year with Widows and Bad Times at the El Royale and she continues to cement her status as a solid performer (and beautiful singer) here. She is impressive as Harriet but I wish the role was written better. The film didn’t dig deep enough – we never learned who she really was because the movie tries to cover so many moments in her life.

I was looking forward to Harriet because I wanted to learn more about her life. It was broadly informative but felt so flat and uninspired, which is a shame because a powerful woman like Tubman deserves a moving, inspirational biopic.

In cinemas Friday 22nd November 

Rating: 2/5

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