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‘Respect’ is an Emotional and Spiritually Rich Film that will leave you breathless

After I watched the end credits roll across the screen, I left the theater teary eyed and speechless. I wasn’t used to a film making me feel this way, both entertained and deeply moved. As viewers, we get an inside look into the respect singers’ life, we learn of her personal struggles with alcohol addiction, abuse, undiagnosed depression and the anchor that kept her through it all, her faith.

Like most singers, Aretha got her start in church, she was a very gifted vocalist at a young age. Many called her a vocal prodigy. She was no stranger to being in the spotlight, as she was called upon on many Sundays to sing in front of her father’s large congregation and even accompanied him on tours.

Aretha had a challenging life, her mother died when she was ten, and at the age of twelve she gave birth to her first child. She also was in an abusive marriage for several years with her husband and manager Ted White, expertly played by Marlon Wayans.

Despite the toils and snares that Aretha faced in her life, she continued to pursue her dreams. “I want to make hits,” she curtly told the manger of Columbia records, when he asked her what songs she wanted to sing. And after many trials and errors, covering different songs by various artists, she covered the song that would make her a global phenomenon, the eponymous “Respect.”

Weaved into the plot are powerful performances from Hudson, where she seamlessly recreates the tone and diction of the queen of soul. Recognizing Aretha’s tonal difference from her own voice, Hudson sings from a higher register than we’re used to hearing from her, but when her voice melds with that of Hailey Kilgore and Saycon Sengbloh the resulting product is mesmerizing and explosive.

******* Spoiler Alert*******

There are many spiritual aspects to ‘Respect’ that I couldn’t help noticing as well. Like, for instance, throughout the film, there is an invisible antagonist that hinders Aretha from moving forward. Every so often she would suffer from depressive episodes, that her father would describe as being the result of a demon. This invisible demon follows Aretha throughout the film. If you’ve ever been to a tent revival or had a praying grandmother, then you know that there is only one way to defeat a demon, and that is by waging spiritual warfare. One of my favorite scriptures is 2 Corinthians 10:4 “for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” We see Aretha using these spiritual weapons, when she is on her knees in her living room, reciting the Lord’s prayer to ward off the demon of alcoholism that is plaguing her life. A few scenes later, when she cleans her house and throws away empty liquor bottles, it signified to me that she had won the war she was fighting.

“Respect” is a powerful movie that showcases a young Aretha’s rise to stardom. It exalts her successes but doesn’t shy away from her failures. It gives us a glimpse into the life of one of music’s most profound and iconic voices.

Overall, I feel that this movie is an excellent tribute to the life and legacy of Aretha Franklin; a tribute fit for a queen.