This deeply moving and disturbing film derives power from being based on the true story of a black South African who does everything possible, no matter how degrading, to get by within an immoral system, but becomes radicalized almost despite himself.
Lower your expectations going into Volver and accept it for what it is: a ridiculously entertaining melodrama with loud echoes of "Mildred Pierce" that provides Penelope Cruz with a vehicle for her multifaceted talents.
Overall Freedom Writers is a noble effort. At a time when New Year's resolutions to change already are falling by the wayside, you can't help but be moved by a group of young people who followed through on their resolve.
As uneven as I Think I Love My Wife often is, it still has an emotional resonance lacking in most films about relationships. By dealing with temptation in even a quasi-realistic way, it affirms that, like comedy, monogamy is hard.
Van Houten, a veteran of European TV, is in almost every scene, and her energetic performance keeps Black Book percolating despite an overstuffed plot that strains credibility and often tips over into melodrama.