Skip to main content

Cynthia Erivo stars as Harriet Tubman in Kasi Lemmons's Harriet.

Glen Wilson/Focus Features

  • Harriet
  • Directed by Kasi Lemmons
  • Written by Kasi Lemmons and Gregory Allen Howard
  • Starring Cynthia Erivo
  • Classification PG
  • 123 minutes

rating

There’s no question that Harriet Tubman is a great U.S. hero. Born into slavery in 1822, she was an integral guide on the Underground Railroad and went on to become an abolitionist, a suffragette and the first woman to lead an armed expedition in the U.S. Civil War. (She was due to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill, until the Trump administration put on the brakes.)

‘What would Harriet do?’: Cynthia Erivo finds strength portraying American abolitionist hero

What’s new in films this week, from the robotic and repetitive Terminator: Dark Fate to the murky mess of Motherless Brooklyn

There’s no question that she’s an ideal subject for a biopic. And there’s no question that Harriet’s co-writer and director, Kasi Lemmons (Eve’s Bayou, Talk to Me), and its star, Cynthia Erivo (Widows, the coming series Genius: Aretha Franklin), fervently desire to do justice to Tubman’s legacy and accomplishments. The film includes some terrific, haunting details, such as the songs enslaved people used as coded communication. The pint-sized Erivo captures the pint-sized Tubman’s determination and fire. And by focusing on the violence slavery did to families, Lemmons makes us feel its outrages afresh.

However, there is such a thing as being too reverential, and too many scenes – including one where a roomful of white abolitionists applaud Tubman – insist on Tubman’s greatness, instead of letting us discover it.

Story continues below advertisement

A new biopic about American abolitionist Harriet Tubman includes her Underground Railroad trek to Canada. The Canadian Press

Harriet opens Nov. 1

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter
To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies