Harriet turned out to be another film that told me a story I had never heard before. Directed and co-written by Kasi Lemmons, it’s a biopic about Harriet Tubman, an abolitionist who lived during the age of American slavery in the 19th century. The movie follows her escape from slavery as well as saving others later from it and it’s told gracefully, however it never quite blossoms.
There are some instances of interpolating gospel music that serve almost like a palette cleanser to heaviness of the script. It’s refreshing to see that happen in a biopic that’s not a musical biopic and I wish there was more of it (more about this further down). Cynthia Erivo who plays Harriet has a stunning voice so whenever she sings, you can feel that it’s meaningful to the emotional weight this story carries. Erivo’s acting is a highlight as well, her commitment to the role was clear to see right from the first scene. Leslie Odom Jr. (William Still) also stands out from the supporting cast, making you feel like there was possibly an interesting side-plot involving him that just didn’t get told.
What I also meant by wishing more gospel is that it is really the only thing in the film that breaks the story here and there. Harriet has a steady flatline for the whole time so when telling this story in a movie form, there is a lack of ”x-factor” of any kind. The music fades out completely until the end credits when even that could’ve been used as a building element to mirror the growing voice Harriet herself gets through her bravery. The final third is unfortunately the worst example of this all culminating as it’s just way too boring considering that the main character is so heroic.
Smileys: Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr.
Hopefully this isn’t the last time that Harriet’s story gets told.