Based on the actual case and story of couple Laurel Hester and Stacie Andree, the drama draws inspiration from the 2007 short documentary, Freeheld, which featured an in-depth look on the predicament.
Introducing Ellen Page and Julianne Moore, the biographical drama enchants viewers from the beginning, skillfully exhibiting the prejudices and homophobic tendencies standing quite strong five years into the current century. Tackling innermost emotions and tugging those who may empathize to ‘come out the closet’ (applicable for Page who publicly admitted she was gay on February 14, 2014), Freeheld became an accurate example of LGBT rights, especially since same-sex marriage has been legal nationwide since 2015 in the US.
The New Jerseyan police officer Laurel Hester was a self-asserted, spirited and independent woman whose life suddenly changed when she met Stacie Andree, a young woman who came from an entirely opposite environment; a straightforward and feisty garage mechanic. As the two fell head over heels in love, the scene quickly seemed to shift for Hester, who became more and more comfortable with expressing her true self, in contrast with the former private self she once clung to.
Despite the overflow of romance and joyfulness, the couple soon was faced with the inevitable news that Laurel Hester was diagnosed with stage four terminal cancer. Here, director Peter Sollett did a magnificent job in exploring the true means of desperation, embellishing the story with a powerful sense of poignancy.
Julianne Moore gave an exceptional performance, maintaining her character’s integrity through times of being downtrodden. Faded, much like a withered flower, with a shaved head and emaciated, she gathered all her force to help change her life and the destiny of her partner’s, Stacie. The main reason behind this was so Stacie could keep the house the couple was living in, well after her lover’s death, which required money and law inforcement.
Having performed public service for more than twenty years, Laurel should have surely earned her retirement and pension benefits assigned to her partner, as with any other similar, heterosexual couple where death would occur. However, matters end up looking grim, as the freeholders (county commissioners of New Jersey) denied her request, stymieing the acknowledgement of a same-sex relationship.
Nevertheless, ‘grace changes everything’, as they say, and soon the couple had two important figures on their side: staunch allies Dane Wells, Laurel’s partner and Steven Goldstein (Steve Carell), an unflinching civil rights activist, who along with the echoing voices of the public successfully brought justice to the case.
Already released in the US last year, the movie will be available to the European public in the ensuing months.