Release Date – 6th January 2023, Cert – 12, Run-time – 2 hours 10 minutes, Director – Chinonye Chukwu
Grieving mother Mamie Till-Mobley (Danielle Deadwyler) attempts to find justice after a racist attack leads to the lynching and murder of her 14-year-old son Emmett (Jalyn Hall).
Perhaps the biggest creation of emotional pain within Till is the fact that we’re constantly reminded in the events leading up to the tragic murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till (Jalyn Hill) that the victim is still a child. Simple gestures and images frequently remind us of the smiling child who rapidly finds himself subject of a racist attack after whistling at a white woman (Haley Bennett) in a local shop, when visiting family in Mississippi. The key sequence – not showing the murder itself – is a drawn out process of emotional tension which echoes throughout the rest of the film.
We see this in the stunning central performance of Danielle Deadwyler as Emmett’s mother, Mamie. Back in Chicago, in the wake of her son’s murder, through her grief she begins to seek justice, particularly against the men who took the life of her only child. On multiple occasions throughout the film Deadwyler’s emotional speeches and performance as a whole create chills down the spine. Forming a natural hook into the film as it guides you through the events and Mamie’s activism. She commands the screen whenever she’s in frame; as the credits begin to roll you’re left both floored by the film as a whole and a central performance which feels as if the Best Leading Actress race can just be called off now.
It’s not just Deadwyler who creates the emotional forces though. There are plenty of scenes that leave you feeling devastated for various characters, and sometimes in plain shock at what has happened and why things have had to come to this. While there are certainly a number of strikingly painful scenes – particularly when the words “get him out of the box he can’t breathe” are shouted – Chinonye Chukwu’s film (co-written with Michael Reilly and Keith Beauchamp) focuses on how the pain propels Mamie and those around her to seek justice. It’s a driving force that converts into power and forms a stride as large and powerful as some depicted in the later stages of the film as court trials are sought.
Things move along with a strong pace as the stirring feelings which are formed throughout are used both to engage the audience and connect with them and to help the narrative progress and develop. Not needing to keep you in place things instead use the emotional connection and understanding to have you feel as if you’re present watching each moment pan out. Heightening the overall effect and in response your feelings towards the film and the strength its punches deliver. Helped along by some excellent performances, especially a truly superb turn from Danielle Deadwyler who delivers a tough-to-beat powerhouse performance. All allowing for the tragedy to come through while never feeling bogged down and stuck in it, using it to develop and move forward towards change in the form of the justice that characters begin to seek through the launch of their various acts of activism – particularly Mamie. It all just works and makes for a fantastic, emotionally flooring piece of work.
Danielle Deadwyler leads Till with a truly stunning powerhouse performance which captures the emotion and tragedy within the piece before it’s used for progression and development of both narrative and response. An overall brilliant piece of work which captures your emotional understanding and runs with that for an even greater response.