Won’t Back Down – Private Screening

This week, I had the exciting opportunity to attend a private screening of the movie Won’t Back Down with Viola Davis, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Holly Hunter.  (Yes, that is a great cast.)  Mirroring actual events, the film follows the plight of a group of parents (led by Gyllenhaal) and teachers (led by Davis) to bring change to a failing and neglected inner-city Pittsburgh school.  As both an educator and a parent, I was excited about the opportunity to see this film, and hopeful that it would highlight the passions of both groups.

In my opinion, the preview above – though intriguing – doesn’t quite do the film justice.  I found myself truly and emotionally engaged in this inspiring movie.  And while I appreciated Won’t Back Down on many levels, I found myself connecting most with the characters and story line from the following perspectives.

As a teacher…

Despite what the trailer (and the first 10 minutes of the actual film) might lead you to believe, Won’t Back Down is not a movie that aims to bash or blame teachers.  Instead, the film portrays teachers in a fair light.  Yes, there are the burnt-out, in-it-for-the-“lucrative”-paycheck teacher(s), but there are also those teachers with the real passion, talent, and desire to reach children.  This is not an “us” versus “them” film when it comes to parents and teachers, but more closely a “we are in this for the common good” film.  Where it does approach the “us” versus “them” feeling is when dealing with the teachers union and its role in education reform.  However, while the movie does not sidestep the political issues, it does continually remind us that first and foremost, the real stakeholders in our education system are our children.

As a mother...

The film focuses on the quest of two mothers, Nona Alberts (Davis) and Jamie Fitzpatrick (Gyllenhaal). Fans of Aibileen from The Help will not be disappointed by Davis’ portrayal of Nona Alberts.  With her duel role as both a teacher and a mother, Alberts is a powerful figure.  An inspired, yet beaten down teacher, Nona Alberts is also battling her guilt and perceived role in her own child’s struggles in the classroom. If you find that you still need a tissue at the thought of the that famous line, “You is smart, you is kind, you is important,” pack a few extras for this film as well. There is a particularly poignant scene between mother and son that will definitely pull at those heart strings yet again.

Similarly, Gyllenhaal’s portrayal of Jamie Fitzpatrick, the unwavering mother of a child being left behind in the classroom, is truly inspiring.  While lacking the book smarts of Alberts, Fitzpatrick’s character is lovable for her quirky charm, unexpected cleverness, and ability to not “back down” in the face of the often intimidating powers that be. Together, the two beautifully demonstrate the awesome power of mother’s love for her child.


As a woman…

Finally, this film is something of an anthem for strong, smart, and determined women.  There is a real depth to  both the quantity and quality of the female roles.  How refreshing.  While there is at least one admirable male character (who wouldn’t love a good looking, ukulele-playing inspired young teacher), the women of this film are really leading the charge.  Whether taking on the world for their child, overcoming obstacles in the “system,” or battling their own internal demons, they are examples for all.  Perfect? No.  But determined, honest, and admirable?  Definitely.

I highly recommend this movie.  Whether you are a parent, a teacher, or someone who loves a good “we can change the world” story, Won’t Back Down will not let you down.  It is sure to stir your emotions, get you thinking, and might even motivate you to “be the change.”  Just, bring a tissue…or two.


“Like” Won’t Back Down on Facebook to join the conversation on education reform as the September 28th premier date approaches! 


This opportunity was sponsored by Circle of Moms.  Tickets were provided free-of-charge as well as compensation for time and travel.  The opinions shared are honest and not influenced by any source other than my own personal views and experiences.  




  1. Thank you for sharing your honest opinions on this up coming movie. I look forward to viewing “Won’t Back Down”. You stirred emotions in me already and being a mother of four and an educator for many years I can’t wait to see how the movie plays out.

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