It is an undeniable fact that society has continued to generate individuals who are inward looking and self centered; always seeking to do what personally benefits them. There are however pockets of others who have the desire to spread out their hearts and lives to the whole society in a bid to improve their lives. Nowhere has this been captured most poignantly than in the film, Erin Brockovich. Shot in 2000, the movie is a dramatization of Erin Brockovich’s story as a legal fighter against Pacific Gas and Electric Company, an energy corporation based in the US West. It is a story of one woman courage, determination, zeal and sacrifice that drives her to abandon all that she has, in order to work for the betterment of society.
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The film stars Erin Brokovich, a jobless single mother of three. She had a law suite against a doctor because of an injury sustained in a car accident. After losing the case, she requests her lawyer, Albert Finney featuring as Edward Masry, to give her a job as compensation for losing the case. He consequently gives her a job in his office as a file clerk. While performing her clerical duties, she chances upon some pro bono case files which involve medical records in a real estate firm. The files also have an offer by PG&E to purchase Donna Jensen’ home in Hinkley, California.
Something convinces Brockovich that some facts in the case do not add up. After digging deeper into the particulars and contents of the case and being sure of her conviction, Brokovich convinces Edward let her research further on the files. Thorough investigations reveal a systematic and massive cover up of industrial poisoning of the water supply in town of Hinkley. The huge amounts of hevavalent chromium present in the water are a major health threat to the whole community. After discovering that PG&E is responsible for this pollution that has caused extensive illnesses to the Hinkley residents, Brokovich embarks on a singular mission to fight for the rights of the residents and make the company to answer for its indiscretions.
While in a bar, Erin meets a strange man who claims to have damaged the documents at PG&E. along the way, she discovers a document of 1996 in which there is a corporate executive’s conversation in San Francisco headquarters of PG&E, to a station in Hinkley. Brokovich is scandalized to realize that though the contamination of the Hinkley water was known to authorities both in San Francisco and Hinkley, nothing was done to remedy the situation. Further, the executive advised the Hinkley office keep the knowledge about the contamination and its effects a secret. It was felt that the Hinkley neighborhood should not know about it for fear of the repercussions. After examination of the evidence by a judge in the absence of the jury, PG&E was ordered to a $333 settlement. This amount is shared among the 634 affected people who were the plaintiffs.
In pursuing this case, Brokovich makes a number of sacrifices. These were related to her children, her relationship with George, her boyfriend as well as her own health. Helping the people of Hinkley was quite an arduous task. This keeps her away from her children because she knows she cannot afford to adequately balance between the two parties. From her point of view, the health needs of the people of Hinkley are more important than the warmth she would derive from her family members. Mathew is at one time mad with her for being away from them all the time, but this does not bother her. Even when she is with them, she spends most of her time reading in order to get enough evidence and competence needed to find justice for the people. Her hope is that some day, he will understand that it was impossible for her to abandon the people of Hinkley without bringing them justice. Her busy schedule and compassion for the people of Hinkley similarly make her fail to hear Beth, her daughter’s first words. This sacrifice pays off when the people get compensated by PG&E.
Brockovich’s obsession with the Hinkley case similarly estranges her from George, her biker boyfriend. Initially, when she picks up the case, she relies quite heavily on him. It is instructive to note that whereas Brokovich sacrifices her time for her children to commit herself to the Hinkley case, George sacrifices his own time and life in order to be with her children. It is his kindheartedness that endears him to her. The time she spends on the case has the effect of keeping her away from him for long periods, hence causing a strain in their relationship. There is the fear of George getting tired of the strain and the time she spends away and bolting off from her. If this happened, her children would suffer greatly. This possibility does not however deter her from pursuing the Hinkley case. She seems to have put a lot of premium on the case than the effect that her estrangement will have on her social and family relationship.
Brokovich also sacrifices her own life for the sake of the Hinkley people. There arte a number of dangers that stalk her. In the first place, she has put a lot of her time in seeking justice for the Hinkley people to the point where she has no time for herself. She is unable to engage in any meaningful social activities, and this is likely to pose health problems. Similarly, Brokovich has medical complications, some dating back to the car accident she had previously had, which she believes is bad luck. She is not willing to abandon the case on medical grounds, a major sacrifice indeed. There is also the possibility of Brokovich being harmed by those who felt she was coming down too hard on them, but this did not deter her.
The movie, Erin Brockovich comes across as a masterpiece on the efforts of one apparently inconsequential woman who turns herself around, takes on a giant corporation and makes it pay for its lack of regard for human life. It is an illustration of the fact that in order to leave a lasting legacy and secure a place for oneself in society and in the hearts of people, lots of sacrifices must be made. Erin Brockovich illustrates this by sacrificing her time for her children, her relationship which George and her own life. For her, no sacrifice is ever too great to make.
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