One of Hollywood's tried and true, bankable genres of film making is the inspirational story that is "based on actual events". These are often the types of movies that get a strong emotional response and usually come with equal amounts of cheering and tears being shed.
Writer and director Daniel Barnes has been able to assemble the type of cast that makes these types of stories work and with two strong leads like Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal, there is little doubt that "Won't Back Down" can deliver the goods.
Jamie Fitzpatrick (Gyllenhaal) and Nona Alberts (Davis) have a similar problem in how each of their children are receiving a sub standard education due to very poor conditions at their school. Jamie's daughter Malia (Emily Alyn Lind) suffers from dyslexia which isn't being helped at all by a teacher that only cares about collecting her paycheck.
With Alberts being a teacher herself, she still holds no advantage for her son against a unionized system that focuses solely on protecting jobs at all costs and even at the expense of the students.
When the two women cross paths, they realize that something needs to be done and when Jamie learns that they do have a way to affect change within the system, she convinces Nona to join forces with her to literally take over the school. Of course, this is no easy task as the governing bodies that are in control of the districts have all been set up to delay and eventually squash the type of change they are looking to bring to their school. Couple that with a union leadership that will go to any length to put a stop to the women and this will truly be an uphill battle all the way to the end.
One thing I liked about this particular movie is how quickly it moved along and, even with an awful lot of information to convey, it never got bogged down in the details. I suppose one thing that helped in this area is how enjoyable Maggie Gyllenhaal is to watch on the screen. I can imagine that she could literally light up a room if the need ever arose as she is a shining example of why they are called movie stars. Couple that with another strong performance from Viola Davis along with solid support from the likes of Rosie Perez, Holly Hunter, and Oscar Isaac and you have a very entertaining movie.
Even though you have a pretty good idea of how its all going to play out, you still can't help but get caught up in the drama of everything that is thrown at you from politics and union clashes to family issues and struggling relationships. As everyone was leaving the theater, I heard one woman say they should have provided tissue as there were lots of teary eyes and plenty of sniffling going on by the time the credits began to roll. With a strong, emotional story and some very good acting performances, I wouldn't be surprised to see "Won't Back Down" brought back up during awards season.