Jamie (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is a single mom in urban Pittsburgh, struggling to support her 7-year-old daughter, Malia (Emily Alyn Lind). At Malia’s new school, Jamie learns that while some teachers are very effective, not every teacher or administrator has the best interests of students at heart.
There is no extra help for Malia, whose teacher is the highest paid but with the lowest job performance for the past several years. Overall, the school is failing. Jamie tries to enroll Malia in private school, but she cannot afford it.
Nona (Viola Davis) is a mom and a teacher at the school whose marriage is failing. While she is concerned about the level of teaching, she is reluctant to take action. Jamie and Nona evoke the “parent trigger law” to take over the school’s administration and form a charter school.
The two women and the other teachers they engage in their cause run up against every administrative hurdle possible. The head of the teachers’ union, Oscar-winner Holly Hunter, tries to bribe Jamie to send Malia to private school. The school board puts up every block possible and has a history of denying petitions on the smallest pretext.Won’t Back Down is a movie with a message and a mission. Walden Media co-produced the very important Waiting for Superman (2010), an unflinching documentary that examined failing public education in the United States as well as successful innovations. Now the education-centered company wants to bring the debate about public education to mainstream America by putting the good of children firmly at the center of this story.
Won’t Back Down has a brilliant cast. While the script employs everything we’ve heard about the reasons for our failing schools, it deftly pushes away every excuse for change in order to motivate audiences— and citizens—to pay attention and act for the sake of children. (From my column in St. Anthony Messenger, october 2012)
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