Love. A word that transcends the physical world. A word that connects people to each other in ways that nothing else can. It doesn’t understand material possessions or political strife yet it is often subjected to both. Peter Sollett pays great respect to it in his poetic movie, Freeheld.
Based on real-life events, Detective Laurel Hester (Oscar-winner Julianne Moore) wants to make lieutenant without special treatment. Her partner, Dane Wells (Michael Shannon), is supportive of her terse nature because there is trust between them. Her dedication is a shield to also cover her from being committed in a relationship, while allowing her to remain in the closet. That is until she meets Stacie Andree (Ellen Page). As their relationship blossoms, Hester discovers that she has advanced-stage lung cancer. Steve Carell provides a key supporting role. Ron Nayswaner’s touching screenplay chronicles Hester’s fight and the swelling support for equality while fighting for her life.
Supporting Sollett’s vision is Maryse Alberti’s fantastic cinematography. From night scenes on the Atlantic boardwalk to whitewashed beach scenes to the town elder’s chambers, Alberti handles the lighting effectively. The story is effectively paced and well cut together, thanks to Andrew Mondshein’s tight editing.
Highlighting the struggles for equality and life are the dramatic lyrics from Hans Zimmer. His minimalist use of music is effective in allowing the screenplay and the actors to work their magic. His score is supported by several popular tracks, highlighting the emotional tension of the movie.
Building on her performance from 2014’s Still Alice, Moore is well on her way to another Best Actress nomination, while Steve Carell’s performance is truly inspired, and is finally worth recognition. Ellen Page gives a very touching performance as well. It is Michael Shannon though who really shines here in his reserved performance. As her partner, he is in the shadows, but his presence fills the screen without taking away from any of the other actors.
Following on Stonewall‘s heels, Freeheld is the second mainstream independent movie to explore equality.The film’s mature themes may turn people away, but the actors and the story treat them with respect. Love is nothing to be taken lightly. It is also nothing to shy away from.
It is much more successful than Stonewall is conveying its message and is recommended.