Assigned the thankless task of teaching freshman English at a gang-infested Long Beach, CA high school, a 23-year-old teacher resorts to unconventional means of breaking through to her hardened students in director Richard LaGravenese
's adaptation of Erin Gruwell's best-seller The Freedom Writer's Diaries: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them
. Her students had been written off, and her chances of succeeding scoffed at, but Erin Gruwell (Hilary Swank
) wasn't about to go down without a fight. Long Beach is a place where a new war is waged with each passing day, and when the hardened students who walk those dangerous hallways sense an outsider attempting to understand their plight, their cynical resentment threatens to keep a deadly cycle in motion. Despite the initially hostile reaction she receives in the classroom, Gruwell uses the writings of Anne Frank and Zlata's Diary: A Child's Life in Sarajevo
to teach her students not only the basis of the English language, but compassion and tolerance as well. Later, when the time comes to tell their own tales in a project specially designed to explore the daily violence that the majority of students have grown numb to, the barriers that had once stood so strong gradually begin to crumble. When the only chance for survival is to befriend the person who was once your mortal enemy, the world is opened to a whole new realm of possibilities.