Julianne Moore and Ellen Page in Freeheld. (Black Sheep Productions)
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page in Freeheld. (Black Sheep Productions)

What it’s about:

When a tough New Jersey detective meets a soft spoken mechanic sparks fly and a lesbian love match is made over a volley ball net. But soon tragedy strikes in the form of terminal cancer and these two life partners are left fighting for their right to be recognised like any other couple in the eyes of bigoted local government officials. 

What we thought:

I have waited so long for this film to be released in South Africa that my anticipation levels were higher than Adele’s beehive, and as such I was ready for it to disappoint me, in the grand tradition of films that take ages to get distribution deals in the rainbow nation and involve lesbian plotlines.

I am looking at you Blue is The Warmest Color. But I was wrong. Wrong like Britney was about shaving her head, herself, in the middle of the night and I am sorry like Bieber that I ever doubted the brilliance of Julianne Moore (Detective Laurel Hester) and Ellen Page (Stacie Andree) as a team. 

In my defense the first 20-30 minutes were incredibly awkward and I felt like my fears were rationalised. It was uncomfortable not only because the first half of the film included two strangers who really like each other dancing and making out (with a gun for safety) but because it felt like Ellen was perpetuating a stereotype of butchness that so often gets portrayed in Hollywood films. 

It was only later - once the characters developed - that I saw that my misgivings were unfounded because Ellen (Stacie) wasn’t forcing the butchness it was the character that she was playing who was just figuring out how to act around someone that she had a major crush on. And who can judge that? We’ve all been there. Or at least most of us have (there’s nothing wrong with you if you haven’t, you might be the lucky one). 

If I have made this film sound like a rom-com and should you go to watch it on that premise I should let you let you know that you’ll be disappointed. At least partially; the film is more than that.  It is a story about equality and also an almighty tearjerker that left me in a pool of tears. 

The tough part, and arguably the best part of the film, comes after those adorably cringeworthy scenes of courtship. After Laurel gets terminal cancer and wants to leave her state pension to Stacie as her domestic partner just like heterosexual state employees in America are able to leave their pensions to their spouses by default. 

It is in those tough dramatic moments that the movie really shines. Other than the two leads I think that Michael Shannon as Laurel’s longtime partner (on the force) Dane Wells really imbues the film inspired by a true story with pathos. 

Go buy a ticket to see this movie if you have the chance, it is without a doubt a bittersweet must-see. 

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24