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Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story (2003)

  Directed by: Peter Levin
Written by: Ronnie Kern
Starring: Thora Birch, Robert Bockstael, Kelly Lynch, Michael Riley, Makyla Smith
Links: Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story on the IMDb, Buy the Book, Buy on DVD
Genre: Based on True Story

This movie gets: 3.00 (1 rating)
nofreelist.com Ranking: not yet ranked (awaiting 2 ratings)

"Truly disappointing ending" - a review by pearly

Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story is a made-for-tv movie. That's pretty obvious, even from the title. It's the kind of movie you might happen past on your travels up and down the channels on your pay-tv, and flick off of if nothing catches your attention within, say, 15 seconds. The one attention catcher with this particular film is that it stars Thora Birch as Liz Murray, however, if you watched the first half an hour, you wouldn't know that, because the Thora version of Liz doesn't show up until a fair way in.

Liz Murray's story goes like this. As a child, she and her older sister lived with their mother and father. Liz's mother Jean (Kelly Lynch) was a drug addict, and her father was headed along the same path, so they didn't do much to look after their two daughters. Jean managed to contract HIV, and left Liz's father to go and live with her own father, a man who had been abusive to Jean in the past. Liz's sister went to live with them too, but Liz (at the young age of ten or so) didn't feel this would be the best thing to do. However, she kept missing school and the apartment she lived in with her dad wasn't too great, so welfare services soon came and took her away.

Liz lived in a home for a while, but after she was released, she began living on the streets. She was directionless and still couldn't get it together to attend school regularly. However, following her mother's death, she came to realise that she couldn't live the rest of her life this way, and found an alternative school to which she applied, and did really well. She then entered a competition to win a scholarship to Harvard, and managed to win it, as, now 18, she was able to talk openly about the real circumstances of her life without fear of being carted off to another home.

A couple of good performances are put in by Birch and Lynch, but this is not enough to make an outstanding movie. The story is an interesting one, Liz's life is certainly event-filled, but some of the telling seems a little over-done, and more for effect than it should have been. The biggest annoyance, however, is that the Harvard part of the title was brushed over at the end. There was a comment made about how Liz soon left Harvard, but this was not adequately explained, making it seem as though the whole journey to that point had been for nothing. Okay, so she went from being homeless to going to Harvard for a little, but then she left... and we don't know why. Stupid.

P.S. Thora has really long hair throughout this movie. It creeped me out.

pearly gives this movie 3 out of 10.
Review created on Fri 5 Mar 2004

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Reader comments

  1. can you tell me if the book is titled the same? would like to read it.

    Rating given: 6

    A comment from rhondda on Thu 10 Jun 2004 15:35 #

  2. Hi Rhondda,

    Actually, the book has not yet been released. It is due out in the USA in April 2005. Amazon have it available for pre-order and I've added the link to amazon.com in the links section at the top of this page.

    Hope this helps!

    A comment from nofreelist's own pearly on Thu 10 Jun 2004 16:44 #

  3. this movie has def. changed my life. although i am only 14. it teaches children, teens, and adults, the meaning of life. theres always bumps in the raod that come and go. but the good things are right over the other side waiting for you. you can't repeat the past. but the memories will follow you through life. its really a great movie.

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from amy wilson on Thu 01 Jul 2004 14:10 #

  4. Love it. Very inspiring. Made tears come out of my eyes. I would recommend it to anyone..

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from Gib on Mon 02 Aug 2004 17:11 #

  5. The movie was great, and yes, the ending was a little sad. I didnt understand why she left. Or why they had to say it in a negative way. They could have said she left to persue Columbia, or to travel, etc. But it was a little strange. The movie though is wonderful and I would recommend everyone to watch it.

    Rating given: 8

    A comment from jennie on Wed 08 Sep 2004 05:35 #

  6. Having seen the movie on Lifetime which was repeated I think a couple of weekends ago gave me encouragement not to give up on myself.
    I am 42 and have been directionless all of my life. This woman is truly amazing. I got alot of inspiration from the movie.
    I won't give up!

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from Valerie Pendelton on Tue 14 Sep 2004 08:50 #

  7. IT WAS GREEEEAT!!

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from Josh on Fri 24 Sep 2004 03:14 #

  8. I thought the movie was really good . . . I watched it in singe sur. today in school . . . We watched an interveiw with her and she said she stayed at harverd for over 2 years . . .so idk but i thought it was really good and i think she is a hero. . .

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from Summertymehottie on Sat 23 Oct 2004 06:22 #

  9. this was one of the best movies i have ever seen, it really gave me a different perspective on life and made me more thankfull then i have ever been for the things i im blessed with in my life, inlcuding family, friends, and a home and roof to live under. thankyou liz for turning your story into a public movie so everyone can get a touch of it.

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from minta aller on Sat 13 Nov 2004 07:12 #

  10. I love the movie so much and very proud of Liz following her dreams. My life has been change since I saw this movie. I am so bless that my parents never did drugs and more. I would give it a 20 because this was a great movie and more.

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from Felicia on Thu 20 Jan 2005 08:39 #

  11. me and liz murray have similiar backrounds except i wasnt homeless or my mom did drugs. but my mom has hiv and i was a young teen mom. right now im getting my ged and liz is an ispiration for me. thora birch is a wonderful actress too. i love them both

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from brenda on Fri 29 Apr 2005 09:30 #

  12. This was a reely good movie. I give it to Liz Murray for never giving up and doing something with her life so she didnt end up like her parents. This movie reely inspired me to always keep my head up that my life cant get any worse but only better. im 15 years old and i have alot to live for and now i realize that thanks to the movie. I would just like to thank the director for making such a good movie to inspired young girls like me..

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from brown2beautiful on Sat 30 Apr 2005 02:40 #

  13. A very touching story that should be seen in all school classrooms. Shows how your personel motivition can take you beyond what you believe. Tells you to believe in yourself even when no one else can.

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from Krystal on Tue 03 May 2005 08:24 #

  14. Stories like this happen everywhere and I'm glad to know that there are girls like Liz that will do whatever to succeed and become something in life.

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from Trish on Tue 03 May 2005 08:27 #

  15. Like omg this is such a great movie it really inspired me to do well in school I used to fail all of my classes;. But after watching this movie I decided to try as hard as I can in school and now I have the best grades in my school.I also got the highest mark in my district on this provincial exam.

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from manny on Thu 12 May 2005 14:30 #

  16. I saw Liz at a National Association of Women's Health and Neonatal Nurses Convention. I was sitting in the front row relating to surviving in a home with alcohol, trying to make it good, right and making the stand to prove the world wrong. I was not going to be like them. She had over 2000 ladies not even moving when she spoke, we were full of tears and gave her a standing ovation. I bought the movie after that and it was really done well. I enjoyed it and I remain awe inspired.

    Rating given: 9

    A comment from Deb K on Thu 30 Jun 2005 13:56 #

  17. je n'ai jamais vu un aussi bn film de tt ma vie il ma fait ouvrir les yeu sur le faite ke je gachais ma vie maintenan je trvaille pour atteindre les étoile et c grace a liz murray je ne la remercirais jamais assez

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from sassy on Sun 12 Feb 2006 00:39 #

  18. yo yo yo sitting here in diversity class beside rachael and we just watched this movie and it was gay and too melowdramatic many people live through this crap and its not fair that one person gets their story printed. thank you

    Rating given: 1

    A comment from bree on Tue 04 Apr 2006 03:46 #

  19. hi i jest love liz and i wont all her books and movies and i want to no if she can come to my openhouse

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from corey payne on Sat 03 Jun 2006 01:38 #

  20. I just want to say that this movie is truly an inspiration. I can relate to this movie because I am also going through a great amount of adversity. This movie does give a person the motivation (that little push) he/she needs to succeed in life and become something. I recommend this movie to everyone. It's a ten in my book.

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from Juan A on Thu 09 Nov 2006 08:05 #

  21. this movie is very inspiring. it makes you realize that there are people who struggle through so much just to make something of their life, which motivates me to better myself. and btw, she left Harvard because she's the one who takes care of her HIV positive father.

    Rating given: 9

    A comment from elle on Tue 06 Feb 2007 15:49 #

  22. I like the movie. it really touched my heart. I know someone once's a homeless and begging for food on the street and now he/she is a medical doctor. There is more than what you see in the movie. Life is challenging there are so many obstacle but if you truely believe in yourself, you can be anybody you want and keep it for good. Don't ever give up your dream!!!

    Rating given: 8

    A comment from Sue on Wed 14 Nov 2007 23:47 #

  23. I watched the movie last night and....WOW!!!its made me believe in myself more and i know now that i will use my life to do something significant and that the road will rise up to meet me!! Thanks stax Liz for sharing your story with me..!!

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from tryphine shumba on Wed 06 Aug 2008 04:48 #

  24. im a bit late on this movie...but god is it touching...very inspirational and touching...its hard to say i know my mother loves me even though she always was sick in a different way...im a foster child, im 15 and when some children like me think too much some began to realize they hate their life and some lose control...by killling themselves, some decide that theyre homeless anyway why not runaway....i was at that point at the point of thinking i should just run away thats no bigggy but it is...and its hard out there...on the streets, the streets arent friendly.but you can do it and dont keep looking back at the past theres no way to forget it but you can make it better...thats what this movie shows...WONDERFUL!!!1

    Rating given: 9

    A comment from andrea on Mon 12 Oct 2009 11:34 #

  25. well if people have gone through this maybe they should try and go all out just like she did, and besides that she probably knows how to put her words out there, unlike other people.

    i loved the movie i enjoyed it alot i loved how Thora Birch acts n i love the the story behind it. i would much love to read the book.

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from jacob(girl) on Thu 29 Oct 2009 03:38 #

Those who have commented give this movie: 9.17 (24 ratings)

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