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©1998–2017
Dustin Putman




Freeheld  (2015)

Reviewed for TheBluFile.com by Dustin Putman

The Film
2.5 Stars
(Release Date: February 2, 2016) – "Freeheld" is a valiant biopic of social activism, but one which never quite shakes its made-for-cable feel. A feature adaptation of the Oscar-winning 2007 documentary short of the same name, the film has three impassioned performances on its side in the form of Julianne Moore (2014's "Still Alice"), Ellen Page (2012's "To Rome with Love") and Michael Shannon (2011's "Take Shelter"). Moore stars as Laurel Hester, a 25-year Orange County, New Jersey, police detective who falls in love with younger mechanic Stacie Andree (Ellen Page). Shortly after moving in together and becoming domestic partners, Laurel is diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. Afraid that Stacie will not be taken care of after she is gone, Laurel—with support from compassionate colleague Dane Wells (Michael Shannon) and Garden State Equality founder Steven Goldstein (Steve Carell)—begins a crusade for equality against the local government officials who are denying Laurel's pension benefits to Stacie.

With "Freeheld," director Peter Sollett (2008's "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist") and screenwriter Ron Nyswaner (1993's "Philadelphia") have made a respectful and compassionate—if arguably too safe and restrained—docudrama. Told in a very point-A-to-point-B fashion, the film's trajectory is a predictable one, but its performances are uniformly fine. Julianne Moore is touching as Laurel Hester, facing her own mortality while fighting for her and Stacie's relationship to be recognized by local officials, while Ellen Page and Michael Shannon lend excellent support as Stacie and Dane. Enjoyable to watch if somewhat undemanding and lacking in complexity, "Freeheld" tells an important story with a comfort-food vibe.

Read Dustin's Theatrical Review

Blu-ray Picture/Sound
 A/A-

"Freeheld" rallies around Blu-ray with a bright and vivid 1080p transfer. Detail, clarity, dimensionality, accuracy of colors and skin tones—all of the above impeccably shine through with no technical issues of note. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio isn't going to be a reference track, nor should it need to be. This is an intimate character drama, and as such dialogue is clear and well-modulated, while the calls of activism sneak effectively into the back channels.

Blu-ray Features
  • Audio Commentary with director Peter Sollett and actors Julianne Moore and Ellen Page
  • "The Making of Freeheld" Featurette (13:55, HD)
  • "Freeheld to Freedom: Ocean County Then and Now" Featurette (8:53, HD)
  • Oscar-winning Documentary Short: "Freeheld" (38:49, HD)
Bottom Line
Lionsgate's Blu-ray release of "Freeheld" is one of real quality. In addition to the great A/V specs, there are a number of invaluable special features bringing insight and shading to the film's true story. Kudos, especially, for including the moving original documentary short upon which the picture is based. Recommended.

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© 2016 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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