“Respect” reveals story of how Aretha Franklin came to be


This film addresses topics like alcoholism, toxic relationships, and the consequences of fame. It came out on August 13, 2021 and can still be seen in theaters.

The “Queen of Soul” or as the world knows her, Aretha Franklin is given the chance to share her story through Liesl Tommy’s movie, Respect. Franklin’s rise to fame and stardom is portrayed by well-known actress and singer, Jennifer Hudson.

 The movie starts out in the early parts of her childhood, with 10-year old Aretha Franklin (Skye Dakota Turner) as the daughter of  American minister C.L Franklin (Forest Whitaker). Her passion for singing was seen through the eyes of her family and the local church community. 

The audience is graced by the power of the young actress’ singing, which is no less impressive than Jennifer Hudson’s vocals. Her mother’s death, traumatized and devastated the way she grew up as a child, halting her communication with others. 

Later in the film, we meet her first love interest, Ted White (Marlon Wayans) who will, later on, marry her. During their marriage, Franklin’s career starts to build, though the relationship with her family is troubling because they do not approve of White. Wayans’ acting throughout the film shows the toxic relationship that Franklin was in for part of her life. And as her husband starts to put money before love and insults before “respect”, Franklin finds it in her best interest to leave him and continue to build her career. 

Ken Cunningham (Albert Jones) is a new partner with whom she has her third child. When he enters the film the background music’s positive tune anticipates that he will be a better partner than White. But as she turns to alcohol as a coping mechanism due to their relationship troubles, the assassination of MLK (Gilbert Glenn Brown) wakes her up and proves to her that deep down inside gospel is where it all started; in the church where activists like MLK and Sam Cooke once went.

Despite all of this Franklin finds a way to overcome her trials and tribulations. This story of not forgetting what makes you, you is a lesson of life that plays a big part in this film. It also addresses the consequences of alcohol addiction and how depending on drinking to escape your problems and create bigger ones like losing your family.

It’s obvious that Franklin is popular amongst the older generations but her songs like “Respect”, “A Natural Women” and “Think” are still being played showing that she was well beyond her time. The wardrobe as well displays the 50s aesthetic in a beautiful way with colorful dresses and an array of shine from glitter to jewels.  

The film is an inspiration and taught younger generations about a 70’s prodigy. An issue at the end of the film was the conversation between Franklin and her father trying to mend their relationship. The conversation lacks background music and tear-jerking emotion.  

Franklin’s life showed that every person has a right to live their life to their content. Hudson did a phenomenal job with vocals that sounded like Aretha Franklin herself. 

This movie presents how the determination of one person can touch the lives of many generations. Since her passing in 2018, the soulful songs that tell compelling stories have found a way to fit in today’s society of rap and R&B.