When New Jersey detective Laurel Hester (Moore) is diagnosed with terminal cancer, she wishes to leave her pension benefits to her girlfriend, Stacie Andree (Page). But when the local council bigwigs deny her request, Laurel gets help from her hard-nosed police partner Dane Wells (Shannon) and gay rights activist Steven Goldstein (Carell), who unite to rally support for the couple's fight for equality.
It's a timely and topical subject – slowly but surely, day by day, gay and lesbian people are gaining the rights that most people take for granted, Rights that they should never have been denied in the first place. Films such as Freeheld are important to bring to light the struggle that people go through simply to live a normal life. And Freehold does so pretty well - based on a true story, it's a solid love story cum political drama that's let down a little by a pedestrian script.
That said, Freeheld is lifted by wonderful central performances from Moore and Shannon, although Page is really not given enough to do. Her Stacie is strong and supportive when partner Laurel gets sick, but she's an underwritten, fairly cardboard character. And an actress of the calibre of Page deserves much better. And Carell's gay, Jewish activist is so over the top that he feels as though he is in an altogether different movie. Luckily, Shannon gives a solid performance as Dane, at first conflicted about his partner's sexuality and then strong and supportive as other cops turn their backs on her. And Moore is grounded and committed, giving us a heartrending take on a dying woman fighting for her rights to the bitter end.
Freeheld packs plenty of emotional punch, and makes its point about equality strongly and well, although at times it does feel a bit like an "issue-of-the-week" telemovie.