Till is not an easy film to watch but this country still has a horrible problem with racism some 65 years after Emmett Till’s murder.
The best way to go into this film is to know that you’re going to leave the theater feeling upset. You’re going to leave the theater with feelings of anger and the question of why is it ever okay to kill anyone, let alone an all-white jury just let the guilty party get away with murder. Barring any health issues, Emmett Till should still be alive today, But no, a pair of Mississippi racists, J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant, decided to lynch him and throw his body away in the river. His mother knew it was his body as did his uncle in Mississippi. Could the sheriff identify him? No, because of the racist card at play during court testimony.
You should already be familiar with the lynching of Emmett Till (Jalyn Hall) while visiting family in Mississippi. If not, this film follows his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley (Danielle Deadwyler), and her pursuit of justice in the days and weeks afterwards. This is easier said than done, what with the racist South but we already knew that. Her grieving would eventually make its way into action. After the trial, her efforts would also lead to the passage of the 1957 Civil Rights Act.
As the film segues into the trial portion, we get to meet some notable Civil Rights leaders on screen such as Medger Evers (Tosin Cole) and Myrlie Evers-Williams (Jayme Lawson. Myrlie would find herself in a similar position a few years later after her husband’s murder. Dr. T.R.M Howard (Roger Guenveur Smith) is a Civil Rights leader who doesn’t get recognized at the same level as those he mentored. Put it this way: this is the first time that I have heard about him!
Clemency filmmaker Chinonye Chukwu wisely chooses to not depict the brutal lynching. Instead, the film focuses on the grief and activism that followed Emmett’s death. I must say that seeing the images of Emmett’s body are unavoidable. This is where one must give credit to the filmmakers for figuring out how best to approach his murder. There was an offer to fix up Emmett’s body for the funeral but Mamie wanted everybody to see what happened.
Whenever you decide to watch Till, be sure to make plans for some lighter viewing to follow. Trust me, you’re gonna need it! I might expand on this review prior to the theatrical release. Till may be brutally devastating to watch but the film–powerful performances and all–is essential viewing. We all have the power to end this hateful virus that is racism. G-d willing, the day will come sooner than later.
DIRECTOR: Chinonye Chukwu
SCREENWRITERS: Michael Reilly & Keith Beauchamp and Chinonye Chukwu
CAST: Danielle Deadwyler, Jalyn Hall, Frankie Faison, Haley Bennett, and Whoopi Goldberg
Till holds its world premiere during the 2022 New York Film Festival in the Spotlight program. Orion Pictures will release Till in theaters on October 14, 2022. Grade: 4/5
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