Won’t Back Down features Maggie Gyllenhaal as a single mom and Viola Davis as a teacher. Together they take on the teacher’s union to get the rights to a dismal Pittsburgh school. The two actresses did everything within their power but they can’t help turn the movie around.
The movie feels like a bad mix of Dangerous Minds and Erin Brockovitch. It’s a shame because Gylllenhaal and Davis give their all for the movie. But even the best acting skills can’t save a movie that has no focus.
Won’t Back Down begins with a scene that tries to get the sympathies of the viewers by having a tired teacher looking at an online shoe shop on her computer monitor and at the same time nagging a student who is having trouble reading the words written on the blackboard. The other students make noises that add to the frustrations of the struggling girl.
The girl is Malia (Emily Alyn Lind), is dyslexic. But her teacher thinks that if she stares long enough at the board, the letters would rearrange themselves in her mind. Jamie (Gyllenhaal) is Malia’s mother and knows Malia’s problem but she can’t afford to send her to a private school. A lottery system prevents her from placing Malia in a charter school.
Nona (Davis) is a teacher at Malia’s school. Her marriage is failing and her own son seems to have a learning disability. The two accidentally meets and Jamie asks Nona to join her in reforming the school through a legal loophole.
Despite the solid performances by Davis and Gyllenhaal, they have nothing to build on. If you’re going to watch Won’t Back Down, you will find yourself asking why you didn’t. You will want to go out of the cinema even before the movie is done.