An older pixelated image of a younger Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She has a small smile on her face and wears a blue-chequered coat. An earring is visible on her right ear, with the background of the image indiscernible.

If you are even remotely concerned when it comes to any kind of equality, then you will have at least heard of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and what she fought endlessly to achieve throughout her career.

A lot can be learned about Justice Ginsburg, who is only the second woman in history to be appointed to the high power of the Supreme Court, during the run of RUTH – Justice Ginsburg in her Own Words (2020), directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Freida Lee Mock (Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision). On top of all the elements of her personal life and career that are discovered, the film shows how she had to fight extremely hard to get to where she did. This was all made even more emotional considering her recent passing, which happened whilst this film was in post-production.

This documentary is a candid look at the life of Ginsburg, who is seen struggling to find a job after flying high through law school and graduating top of her class. She faces hostility as everybody disregards her due to her gender, judaism and the fact that she had a young daughter at the time. Other than these personal identifiers, the documentary focuses a lot more on Ginsburg’s career than her personal life, in-fact it barely touched on that at all. It takes a deep dive into some of the specific, individual cases that progressed her career and on top of that, even hears from some people whose lives were directly impacted by her work as a Justice on the Supreme Court. This massively helps to show audiences the span of her power, just how important she is to the American people, and how pivotal she has been to change across the United States in the time she served as Supreme Court Justice.

In the scenes where people who were around Ginsburg talk about how incredible she was in the fight for women’s rights, it allows for audiences to appreciate just how much of an impact she had. On top of this, there was a lot of old footage used throughout that really helped to establish the times and showed just how prejudiced a lot of the society was, and that in turn helped to showcase just how pivotal Ginsburg was when it came to enacting change. Although it was frustrating to witness, it shows just how hard she worked, and more importantly had to work, to get to where she wanted and deserved to be. 

It was no fault of anyone involved in RUTH – Justice Ginsburg in her Own Words, but unfortunately Julie Cohen and Betsy West’s RBG documentary, released in 2018, jumped the gun on this one. If you have already seen that one, you will learn more or less nothing new from this film; the storytelling and use of archived footage overlaps greatly. It’s a shame, because they are both well-made documentaries in their own right that have a lot of merit, but there is simply no need for them to both exist.

If you haven’t watched RBG then absolutely commit to watching RUTH – Justice Ginsburg in her Own Words and enjoy learning about the compelling woman she was. If you have seen RBG – just don’t bother.

Erin Bacon is an aspiring film critic from East Sussex, England. She loves educating herself on issues surrounding inequality, watching late night American comedy shows, and drinking cocktails. She has broad taste when it comes to cinema, but especially enjoys watching anything Jane Fonda has ever done! twitter: @erinbaconn