Till – Film Review

Till – Film Review
by Fran Winston

Directed by: Chinonye Chukwu
Starring: Danielle Deadwyler, Jalyn Hall, Frankie Faison, Haley Bennett, Whoopi Goldberg

In cinemas on January 6th 

This is based on the harrowing true story of  Mamie Till who became a legendary educator and activist in the Civil Rights Movement after the lynching of her 14-year-old son, Emmett in 1955. The young boy was beaten severely, shot dead then thrown into the Tallahatchie River with a 75lb fan tied around his neck with barbed wire by white supremacists, simply for whistling at a white woman, while he was visiting his cousins in Mississippi. In what became an iconic moment in the fight for equality, Mamie insisted that the coffin containing his battered and brutalised body be left open and the pictures of the tragic teen’s corpse caused outrage within the black community. Despite this, his murderers were found not guilty at their trial. This movie reframes the story to tell it entirely from Mamie’s perspective which gives it a powerful edge.

If this sounds like a difficult watch that’s because it is. Although we only hear part of Emmet’s torture it is quite jarring and the briefest glimpse we see of his bloated and battered corpse is shocking. Especially when you realise that this is a true story.

Emmet is played here by Jalyn Hall and set up as a likeable and bubbly, albeit naïve, character, so his demise is all the more tragic when it comes. Although he doesn’t have much screen time, Hall gives a wonderfully endearing performance.

But this is Danielle Deadwyler’s film. She shines in the role of Mamie bringing her heart-wrenching grief to life. Even though distraught she remains dignified, and her quiet strength juxtaposed with the feral brutality of her son’s death really hits hard.

This historically horrific murder is a story that should be remembered and with this film, director Chukwu manages to honour both Emmet and Mamie’s memory. She avoids sentimentality and outrage and instead has created a balanced piece that provokes thought and conversation.

As hard as this is to watch it is a wonderful piece of filmmaking. Difficult subjects should provoke discussion and hopefully, this will do the same. And if Deadwyler doesn’t get an award nod or two then there is no justice.

Categories: Header, Movie Review, Movies

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