Homeless to Harvard (2003) – DVD Review


Homeless to Harvard is an inspiring story of Elizabeth Murray, known as Liz, that through sheer determination went from living on the streets to graduating from Harvard University. Thora Birch plays Liz in this drama, that based on a true story about a homeless teen forced to take care of herself after her parents are not able to stop their own drug addition.

Liz grows up caring for her mother that is suffering from AIDS and who takes drugs to cope with the pain. Living in abandoned apartments and eating out of dumpsters, Liz does her best to stay alive and on occasion, go to school.

Without regular running water and proper clothing, she gets shunned by her classmates. A kind teacher brings her some clothes and a toothbrush in exchange for a promise that Liz will start attending school more often. Even though Liz only shows up for class for a few days over many weeks, she passes every test with top scores.

After Liz’s mother passes away, she is finally free to use her time and academic abilities to get a better life. To start, she pursues getting a high school diploma. Liz pursues an accelerated high school program in a small school for gifted students, taking twice the normal course load. She works at washing dishes for food and sleeps in the subway. Her homework, papers, and books go with her everywhere, even if it means hanging them over the huge restaurant sink while she works.

A major turning point for Liz was seeing Harvard University for the first time on a school field trip. She cannot believe such a life was even possible, especially for someone like herself. After overhearing a causal remark about a deadline approaching for scholarships, Liz realized she had a chance to go for a college degree as well, but only if she can write her application and essay in time. She knows that if she can get her essay read by the review committee there is a chance.

While Liz walked towards her class, a school official tells her that her application was accepted and she is in the running for a full, four year paid college education at one of the most prestigious colleges in the world, Harvard University. This means that if the New York Times newspaper picks her out of all the applications, Liz will only need to find some decent clothes to wear to her interview.

Homeless to Harvard brings to its audience a lot of inspiration and hope for any kind of challenges ahead. Thora Birch does a wonderful job in her role, expressing the steel determination of Liz Murray with dignity and style.

Homeles to Harvard is not yet rated, and was directed by Peter Levin.

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