Time: 130 Minutes
Danielle Deadwyler as Mamie Till
Jalyn Hall as Emmett Till
Frankie Faison as John Carthan
Haley Bennett as Carolyn Bryant
Whoopi Goldberg as Alma Carthan
Director: Chinonye Chukwu
The true story of Mamie Till-Mobley’s relentless pursuit of justice for her 14-year-old son, Emmett Till, who was brutally lynched in 1955 while visiting his cousins in Mississippi.
I’ve been hearing a bit about this movie, mainly from hearing that it was getting some awards attention. I heard that it’s about the murder of Emmett Till in the 1950s; while it could’ve easily been mishandled, it ended up being a devastating but necessary and well made movie.
Some people might be a bit reluctant to watch this movie, understandably so. On top of it being about a tragedy like this, plenty are tired of movies focussing on black people’s suffering, especially in the past decade. For what its worth though, I wouldn’t put Till in that category. Its respectful and tasteful to the true-life events as much as possible and treats it with the thoughtfulness it deserves. They could’ve gone the graphic route by showing Emmett Till being killed on screen, but the film just show the lead up to his death and the aftermath, while his death is kept offscreen. It also serves the movie better, capturing the emotions of his mother Mamie Till rather than focussing deeply on the brutality inflicted on him. It is very much a character driven movie as it follows Mamie as she’s going through all this. At first it takes time to establish Emmett and Mamie’s life in Chicago before he goes to Mississippi, then after his disappearance and then death, it focuses on her search for justice. Till is painful to watch but affecting and moving. There are times where the movie can be slow, mainly in the second half, but the majority of the slower pacing works well enough.
The story is really led by the performances, each actor delivers a convincing performance that leaves an impression on you, no matter how small their screentime might be. Of course, the highlight is Danielle Deadwyler who is great as Mamie Till, and delivers a powerhouse performance. She has you invested in her fight and delivers a genuine and sensitive portrayal of grief and conviction. The rest of the performances are also top notch, including Whoopi Goldberg, Jalyn Hall, Frankie Faison, Jayme Lawson and Haley Bennett.
The direction from Chinonye Chukwu is great. It is very well shot, and there are even some stylistically interesting things that are done here. Abel Korzeniowski’s score was great too, making already powerful scenes even more powerful. However, probably the most distinctive directing choices had to do with what Chukwu decided to show and not show, which was very important. As previously mentioned, they concealed certain things so as to not be exploitative, but doesn’t shy away from the brutality of it all.
Till is a hard hitting and affecting movie which sensitively tells its real life story, and benefits from the excellent performances, especially from Danielle Deadwyler. It is definitely a hard watch, but I think it is worth seeing.