Harriet (2019) | A Powerful + Moving Story | Movie Thoughts

Hello again, dear readers. After having Harriet on our mental watchlist for a couple of years, a couple of my siblings and I watched it several weeks ago. It was powerful and somehow very different than I expected. I am excited to share some of my thoughts with you all, today.

Autumn has fully arrived here and the trees actually have some color now! We have had some beautiful days recently and I am truly enjoying them, alongside my hot coffee (with whipped cream on top), delicious apples, lovely sweet cider and of course mugs of hot tea.

Well…let’s jump in!

2019 | PG-13

I had very high expectations for this movie and, although it was different than I expected, Harriet met every one of them. From the very first scene to the last moments, Harriet held me in a place of awe and anger. I felt as though I was caught somewhere between crying and paralyzed. 

I had anticipated a great deal of physical violence but Harriet deals far more in emotional and verbal violence than physical. This is not to say that there is not physical violence – the viewer watches as an incredible woman is beaten to death and another woman is held by the throat until she reveals Harriet’s location – but the focus is not placed on horrifying the viewer visually. The focus is on impacting the viewer through verbal expressions of hatred and callousness as well as through the immense courage of Harriet and those she frees from slavery. 

All of the acting was superb. Each actor played their role with raw intensity and a level of humanity that was impactful. The hatred that was directed towards Harriet and other enslaved people was simply disgusting and horrifyingly genuine. This intensity was also communicated through Harriet’s immense courage and determination. 

After watching this film I listened to an interview with the writers and director of the film – three women, two of them women of color. In the interview these women communicated that they had two specific goals in telling Harriet’s story. The first of these was the fact that they desired to tell a story that was imbued hope and the second was a focus on portraying Harriet Tubman as a woman, not a “superhero”. They were successful in both of these objectives. 

Cynthia Erivo, who played Harriet in the film, was stunning in her portrayal of this remarkable woman. Cynthia’s physical strength conveyed Harriet’s, almost mythical, strength impeccably; her voice lent a further depth to Harriet’s character. In every possible way, Cynthia was Harriet.

One of several scenes that has stuck with me since I watched Harriet is the scene in which Harriet returns for her husband John, only to discover that he is married to another woman who carries his child. Harriet’s pain was achingly raw and difficult to watch, as she mourns a future that will never exist and a love that she thought would last forever. Even more memorable than Harriet’s pain was the fact that after her heart was shattered, she was able to move forward and realize that God had sent her back for a reason, it was simply a different one than she had thought. 

There are an endless amount of things that I could say about this film and the things that I was impacted by and appreciated, but ultimately what made this story so incredibly powerful was Harriet. I am in awe of how Harriet allowed God to work through her and her incredible and complete trust in Him was deeply inspiring. I am certain that this film will remain with me for a very long time.

Have you seen Harriet? Any thoughts? What was the last movie (or book) that impacted you deeply?

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