The film tells the real-life story of Detective Lieutenant Laurel Hester and her partner Stacie Andree. After being diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2005, Laurel requested that her pension be transferred to Stacie so that she could afford to remain in the home they’d made together. For a heterosexual married couple, this would have been offered as a matter of course, but in Laurel and Stacie’s case, the request was initially turned down by the county freeholders. What followed was a lengthy and ultimately successful campaign for justice, tragically concurrent with Laurel’s worsening health.
There’s no doubting the significance of this campaign. A testament of love and courage in the worst of circumstances, it also marked an important step forward for equal marriage rights in the US. This makes it all the more disappointing that Freeheld isn’t quite the film it could be.
Moore and Page, both excellent actors, are consistently hampered by the screenplay. Quite simply, we don’t see enough of either of them. The early stages of their courtship are cut too short. Just as we’re getting a sense of their blossoming relationship and its complexities – from the nineteen year age difference to the secrecy which bigotry forces upon them – the film jumps forward by a year.
From then on, the pair are irritatingly overshadowed, often by the agonising prevarications of the freeholders. While the supporting cast are for the most part perfectly capable, and Michael Shannon impressively understated as Laurel’s police partner Dane Wells, you can’t help but feel that the film rather neglects its central relationship. This is a shame because the moments in which Moore and Page are on screen are undoubtedly the film’s best. While the story is powerful enough to hold your interest, this misdirection of attention hinders its ambition.
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UK Release Date 19 February.
|What||Freeheld film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
19 Feb 16 – 19 Apr 16, times vary
|Price||£ determined by cinema|
|Website||Click here to go to the film's IMDB page|