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Wayback Wednesday: Won’t Back Down (2012)

Eat shit, Deborah!

For this week’s Wayback, I was really in the mood to watch something uplifting. Not just a movie that’s comedic or lighthearted, but one with a strong, clear message that shows characters standing up for something that they believe in. During an early scene in Won’t Back Down (2012), the simple but effective mantra of “we will not wait” is repeated over and over and that struck a chord with me. Change doesn’t happen because you wait for it. It happens because you use your passion and your heart to fight for what’s right and make things better. Even if that change doesn’t benefit you directly! Fighting for change is difficult. It means standing up to people who are always going to try and push you down. A lot of times it means standing alone. But find the people who will stand with you and the struggle will be easier to endure. I promise, they’re out there. Whew! In case you couldn’t tell, this was exactly the type of movie I needed right now. 

Credit: imdb.com / 20th Century Fox

Inspired by actual events, Won’t Back Down tells the story of Jamie and Nona, two separate mothers, the latter a teacher, who are let down by their children’s failing inner city school. Looking to change their children’s education and futures for the better, the women work together and risk their personal and professional lives to battle the bureaucracy of the education system. 

I had never seen this movie before nor did I really know much about it. However, if I had known about the fantastic cast assembled for this drama, you can bet your ass that I would have seen it years ago! You already have me sold on the perfect casting of Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal who are two of my favourite dramatic actresses, but also including the likes of Holly Hunter, Rosie Perez and Oscar Isaac is just the cherry on top. First of all, the chemistry between these two great actresses is phenomenal. As Jamie and Nona respectively, Gyllenhaal and Davis share the screen beautifully and play off each other with the high level of skill you’d expect from these pros.

Can I just say this? Viola Davis needs to be cast in more roles where she gets to express joy. The rare time a character she plays gets to be even slightly goofy and silly it is so endearing to watch! As much as Davis amazes you with the incredible gift that is her mastery over the dramatic monologue, when she lets loose she becomes a beacon of light that is impossible not to vibe with. Similarly with Gyllenhaal. She always seems to play an endearingly scrappy woman with a fire that can’t be extinguished and I love that about her. Gyllenhaal plays the part exceptionally well. Everyone in Won’t Back Down delivers a great performance (especially Rosie Perez who is sadly slightly underutilized) even though the movie does force Oscar Isaac to do the one thing powerful enough to negate his inherent sexiness: multiple scenes of him playing the ukulele. 

Teachers (the ones who have a passion for teaching and genuinely care about helping their students learn, explore and grow) don’t get enough credit for the impact they have on children’s lives. Shoutout to how hard they work to get anything literally done. Although I had a vague idea of the red tape they need to go through, dang, Won’t Back Down shows just how WILD and bureaucratic the school system can be. It can be straight up disheartening. Thankfully, although the movie approaches a serious topic, it never exploits the subject material for the sake of tragedy porn. Won’t Back Down doesn’t shy away from showing the very relatable hardships that the characters experience, but as a whole it manages to balance that with a consistently hopeful tone. The stick-to-itiveness of Jamie and Nona is inspiring. I admire stories about anyone who puts in the work to achieve their goals. Those who take big risks to make things happen for themselves. The ingenuity of the human spirit, the passion for change..it’s incredible to watch. I think we forget about it sometimes but it exists.  And yes, this is a dramatized movie made by Hollywood, but I think it helps to watch these movies and remember that although it’s challenging and sometimes it doesn’t work out, taking a chance on change is always worth it.  

One of the greatest things I appreciated about Won’t Back Down was the strong use of visual storytelling. The movie does an excellent job of showing us plot details, character traits and motivations rather than telling us which adds a certain level of enjoyment to the movie. I was impressed with how subtle this technique was used! Some directors would be too zealous and hit audiences over the heads with meaningful imagery, but director Daniel Barnz shows considerable restraint. Less is more in Won’t Back Down which makes it all the more powerful and effective. The masterful storytelling is only highlighted by a plethora of well-executed one-shot takes. 

Much like a majority of the characters in this movie, I took a chance on Won’t Back Down. For a movie that I knew absolutely nothing about, I was more than pleasantly surprised by this inspiring little movie. If you’re looking to watch a rousing movie about good, hardworking women overcoming the odds and putting selfish naysayers in their place, you definitely have to check out Won’t Back Down. Just watch out for Deborah if you do. I know she’s just a movie character, but her nastiness had me ready to sign any petition I could get my hands on just to prove her wrong!

Have you seen Won’t Back Down?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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