Harriet was released November 1, 2019, bringing the famous story of runaway slave and underground railroad conductor Harriet Tubman to life. A well-known historical figure, Tubman was responsible for leading over 300 slaves to freedom through dangerous terrain, never losing a life in all her journeys. Tubman represents the strength, comradery, and resilience of enslaved African Americans as they risked everything to find freedom.
The movie featured a wealth of talent. Popular actress Janelle Monae floated across the screen as a fierce, well-to-do safe house owner in gorgeous gowns. Joe Alwyn, notably Taylor Swift’s current boyfriend, played the role of Harriet’s master Giddeon, pursuing her relentlessly. The film featured two Broadway stars; hit Hamilton’s Leslie Odom Jr. as William Still and The Color Purple’s Cynthia Erivo, who lead the cast as Harriet Tubman. Her musical talents came into play as she alerted soon-to-be-freed slaves of her presence via song. A haunting farewell tune, Erivo’s voice carries the raw emotion of slavery to the audience as Tubman carries them to freedom.
Erivo did an outstanding job of portraying the strength of Tubman’s spirit. Her firm and commanding presence is deserving of an Oscar. Her expressions were unwavering in times of danger, stoic when anyone else would have been terrified; she stood strong and proud in the face of doubt and violence, revealing just how courageous Tubman was.
The film admirably presents the pains of slavery without grotesque images shown in other films, making it easier to absorb for easily disturbed audiences. It exposes them to the horrors without triggering nausea. This is not to say the vile punishments enforced on slaves should not be shown on screen, but it is nice to provide different forms of exposure for audiences who may not be able to handle such gore.
The movie places a heavy emphasis on Tubman’s ability to communicate with God through visions, giving it a fantastical element as well. The visions were a tribute to Tubman’s name amongst slaves; Moses. Her intuition and numerous strokes of luck had to have come from a divine power; freeing so many slaves without consequence on her own accord seemed impossible, leading to her godly nickname.
Overall, Harriet effectively tells the story of a beloved and revered figure, artistically revealing the details of her life and impact on the slave community. Beautifully gripping, Harriet is a must-see!