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#RespectMovie – Review of the new Aretha Franklin film

Respect – film on UK general release 10th September; Details from

You’d be forgiven for thinking that a film about Aretha would be an extended sugary buildup to the recording of the eponymous song… but you’d be completely unprepared for the hard-hitting masterpiece that unfolds.

Mention must first be made of a jaw-dropping performance from Jennifer Hudson as Aretha, both in acting and singing, the latter channelling the great lady herself to an unbelievable degree. Ms Hudson sang it all live during the filming, and there are enough closeups to prove it.

Quite simply, an astounding bravura work.

Childhood Aretha is beautifully captured by young actress Skye Dakota Turner too.

It’s a long film, but Aretha had a long and eventful life.

The cinematic pace doesn’t falter, and tackles just about every serious issue of the day – racism, segregation, the civil rights movement, domestic violence, child-abuse, religion vs music industry, mental health… and hooks you in right there in the first 15 minutes.

All the supporting cast are wonderful, and make the most of the no-holds-barred script. The sets and costumes are meticulous in their historical accuracy, even down to the microphones, studio equipment and musical instruments.

The music re-creations are very cleverly done, with proper musicians playing actual instruments mainly live on-camera.

There are nice insights too into songwriting and production. (Having produced many albums in studios I could appreciate the largely-authentic agony and triumph of these moments!).

I would say this hard-hitting biopic should be essential viewing for musicians of all genres, and anyone else with any appreciation of a truly legendary singer.

Be prepared to be informed, shocked, elated, awe-struck and moved to tears.

The last 15 minutes are among the most powerful bits of cinema I’ve ever seen.


Neal Richardson



31/8/21 Seaford, UK