In Freeheld, Julianne Moore stars as Laurel Hester in the true story of a Lieutenant in the Ocean County, New Jersey Prosecutor's Office who fought for an extension of pension benefits to her domestic partner after being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Because she was in a same-sex relationship and not married to her partner, she was refused those simple rights, which brought her deathbed appeal into the national spotlight due to its unique and unfair circumstances.
Ellen Page plays Stacie Leigh Andree, Hester's 19-years-younger partner who ultimately received those benefits just a month before her partner's death in 2006. Freeheld follows the couple's story, portraying a passionate love devastated by Hester's sickness and subsequent legal battles. Page, who recently came out herself, is hopeful the film can bring awareness to those who feel unable to be their true selves in the workplace, but knows it's not a quick fix.
"I've never experienced what Laurel did, but it's not that simple," she told The Hollywood Reporter. "There are countries in the world where there are no anti-discrimination laws for people at all, and what is someone gonna do if they can't get a job because they're gay? Every situation is different and personal. Some people can come out and face horrific violence."
Moore followed up by saying we should do our best to put ourselves in that difficult mindset. "What's important is to empathize with people in that situation," she said. "To think about what that must feel like, how difficult it must be."
And their co-star Michael Shannon, who plays Hester's longtime partner on the police force, summed the fight against homophobia in the workplace with a call to action, saying, "I think it's important to follow your heart if you think something is unfair" and "It's easy to get discouraged and think you can't make a difference. Fight against that instinct. Go and push forward, no matter what."
Freeheld hits theaters October 2.
Cover image: Zero Media via YouTube.
Correction: an earlier version of this article misidentified Hester as a New Jersey State Police Lieutenant. She was in fact a Lieutenant in the Ocean County, New Jersey Prosecutor's Office.