Review by Sean Boelman
A film that couldn’t have come at a better time, Dawn Porter’s new documentary John Lewis: Good Trouble is an important reminder of how a bit of compassion and empathy can go a long way in making the world a better place. Uplifting and entertaining, this is a movie not to miss for audiences of all ages.
The film traces current Congressman John Lewis through his years of social activism, first as one of the leaders of the civil rights movement and now as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. And while most are likely familiar with Lewis and some of the great things he has accomplished, one may not realize just how prolific his career has been.
Rather than presenting Lewis’s story as a linear biography, Porter jumps around time, focusing on the different causes for which Lewis has advocated over his lifetime. It’s an effective decision that allows both the filmmaker and her subject to make a strong and resonant political statement about the need for change in America right now.
Like the man who inspired it, the movie tackles a lot of social issues that are relevant to society right now. There’s a reason why Lewis is highly respected by both the public and his colleagues (some of which even appeared in interviews in the film). From his work, it’s clear that he wants to make a positive change on the world.
The titular idea of “good trouble” refers to the fact that it is sometimes necessary to stir the pot to be a force of good, and Lewis himself has gotten into a fair share of this “good trouble” himself. Still, in a time when change is so desperately needed, it is an important message that challenging the status quo is necessary, even when one faces opposition.
Perhaps the best part of this movie is getting to hear Lewis in his own words. He is and always has been a phenomenal orator, and his speeches go a long way in making the documentary feel thoroughly inspirational and uplifting. With such an eventful life, he has plenty of stories to tell, so it is wonderful that Porter was able to commit it to film.
Porter also extensively utilizes archive footage from Lewis’s earlier days, when he was working with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and the rare access she had is pretty awe-inspiring. She uses this footage to create an interesting and eye-opening parallelism between the work he was doing then and the work he is doing now.
John Lewis: Good Trouble is an excellent documentary about a brilliant and important politician. Well-made all-around, this is essential viewing, especially given the state of unrest that society is facing at the moment.
John Lewis: Good Trouble hits theaters and VOD on July 3.