Written by Ron Nyswaner / Directed by Peter Sollett / Starring Julianne Moore, Ellen Page and Michael Shannon
The timing of Peter Sollett’s FREEHELD seems strange at first. While the film is first and foremost the true account of how one New Jersey detective fought the system so that her partner would get her pension when she passed away from cancer, it is also a compelling case for marriage equality at the same time. Only now, there is marriage equality in America and if the fight has been won, does the film run the risk of losing relevance? Not at all. In fact, FREEHELD is a painful reminder of how hard that fight truly was at times and how a change in the law does not necessarily mean a subsequent shift in acceptance follows.
In 2002, celebrated New Jersey detective, Laurel Hester (Julianne Moore, who continues to shine in another award worthy turn) met Stacie Andree (Ellen Page, who gives us her most complete performance since JUNO) and they fell in love. One year later, they bought a house and for a moment, it looked as though they were both about to see their simple dreams of finding a family come true. Sadly, that moment was short lived as Laurel was diagnosed with cancer not long after they moved in together. When Laurel’s request to have her death benefits transferred to Stacie under the Domestic Partnership Act is denied, her plight becomes a cause and a battle ground to push for marriage equality in her state.
Everything in FREEHELD leading up to Laurel’s plea for justice is surprisingly frank and disarming. Watching Moore and Page, despite their drastic age difference, fall in love with extreme caution and trepidation is at once no different than the path most couples with baggage take to find each other, yet also an honest account of how unique the gay struggle to find love is when you have to find it in a world that doesn’t take that love seriously. The film devolves into formulaic territory in the latter half but it makes no less of a powerful point about how love really is just love in the end.
How many sheep would you give Freeheld?