"Till" stars Danielle Deadwyler, Jalyn Hall, Frankie Faison, Haley Bennett, and Whoopi Goldberg. Released on October 14, 2022, the film has a woman searching for justice after the lynching of her son.
The film was directed by Chinonye Chukwu, known for directing "Clemency". This weekend would've been a great time to celebrate the spookiest holiday of the year. However, I figured today would be an excellent time to get into some history amid the thrills and chills. Everyone, including myself, knows about the tragic and inhumane event involving a teen named Emmett Till. He was brutally murdered and thrown into the Talahachee river by white supremacists in 1955. The reason? He was accused of whistling at a white shopkeeper named Carolyn Bryant. Times were tough back then, and from the looks of it, they still haven't changed. Till's death became a crucial part of the civil rights movement, which called for equal rights for the African-American community, and it has remained a part of our lives ever since. The person responsible for starting this movement was his mother. Emmett Till's tragedy has been showcased in plays, books, and television. However, it hasn't been displayed as a feature film until now, which is a good reason for me to be curious about how it'll appeal to a broader audience. With that said, let's see if this latest depiction is as heartbreaking as the event itself.
The story centers on Mamie Till (Deadwyler), a single mother raising her son Emmett (Hall) in 1950s Chicago. Mamie sent Emmett to spend the summer with his cousins in Money, Mississippi. Unfortunately, Emmett's peaceful summer comes to a tragic conclusion when he's accused of inappropriately interacting with a Southern shopkeeper named Carolyn Bryant (Bennett). As a result, Emmett was beaten and shot to death by the white supremacists, and his body was thrown into the river. After hearing about the painstakingly awful news, Mamie seeks to take action by showcasing Emmett's lynched body to everyone and pursuing justice for his death.
The events in "Till" are told from the perspective of Mamie Till, with Emmett's murder being heard instead of shown to make it accessible for everyone. This isn't the first time we have this perspective displayed onscreen, as it was previously showcased in "Women of the Movement", a miniseries that recently premiered on ABC in January. Sadly, I haven't watched the series yet, but I have heard good things about it. That alone might be enough to put it on my watchlist for later.
The murder of Emmett Till is one of the events that are extremely challenging to talk about despite their significant impacts on history. It's as painful to remember as the four black girls getting killed in a church bombing and the 9/11 terrorist attack. What makes it hard for us to swallow is that Till was fourteen years old at the time of his death. In other words, killing teens and children, regardless of color, is a crime against humanity, and those who perform it should have their hearts eaten by karma. So it's a little surprising that the film got a PG-13 rating regarding the disturbing topic. Luckily, despite the rating, it was met with an overwhelmingly positive reaction from critics and audiences since its release. After experiencing the movie for myself, I'm pleased to say that the hype is real for this astounding piece of biographical filmmaking.
"Till" represents the heartbreaking tragedy through a mixture of grief, drama, and more grief. With that much sorrow in this two-hour-plus movie, it would've been unwatchable for specific viewers. However, I think it was intended for the film to provide this emotion. It's supposed to remind people of the frustrations, sadness, and fear of living in the 1950s as a black person, especially considering the politics during the period. Many films about the community showcase this lifestyle, with some succeeding in combining it with their cinematic and storytelling aspects. "Till" is another superb example of this, with Chinonye Chukwu expressing a strong understanding of the community and its topic regarding her direction. This was my first experience with Chukwu's direction, and based on what I saw, it won't be my last.
The movie provides not only an emotionally compelling depiction of a mother's grief but also a well-paced courtroom drama that sees her seeking justice for her son despite Mississippi's law system. Both elements work exceptionally well in delivering a consistent balance of heartache and frustration. More importantly, they are portrayed through Chukwu's direction, impeccable cinematography, and a screenplay that's contained, thoughtful, and honest. At its core, the movie mainly serves as a remarkable representation of how a mother's love sparked the need for change because, let's face it, there's nothing more endearing than the love between a mother and her son, at least from my standpoint. Despite its two-hour runtime, the film's storytelling got me hooked from its joyful beginning to its bittersweet conclusion, thanks to its pacing and ambitious narrative.
Danielle Deadwyler didn't catch my eye that much, as I've only seen her in supporting roles, including "Gifted" and "The Harder They Fall". "Till" puts her front and center to kick off the next chapter of her career, and the result is undoubtedly a sight to behold. Deadwyler delivered a stunning performance that reflects Mamie's pain, sorrow, and fear of being separated from her son, with a touch of frustration that strays away from being far-fetched. She embodies the mental suffering a mother would go through if something similar happened to them. Danielle Deadwyler proved to be a shining star in her breakout performance, and I hope to see more of her in the future.
The rest of the cast was also outstanding in sharing the spotlight with Deadwyler. Jalyn Hall, known for playing Dillon James in "All American", did a great job with his performance as Emmett Till. He only appeared in the film's first act, but that's enough to brighten my mood with his cheerful and innocent personality before being brutally murdered. Frankie Faison and Whoopi Goldberg were also fantastic as Mamie's parents, John and Alma Carthan. Seeing Goldberg in "Till" makes me glad that she's still working in the movies outside of "The View" since I haven't seen much of her besides the iconic talk show.
Overall, "Till" resembles a highly compelling and emotionally thought-provoking depiction of one of history's important and horrific events. From the historical and filmmaking perspectives, the movie succeeds on both fronts by delivering an exceptionally well-crafted presentation that matches the tragedy's impact. From Chukwu's direction for its emotional topic to the tremendous cast, mainly Deadwyler, this is another film that met my expectations in more ways than one. More importantly, it serves as a reminder that there's more work to be done to achieve equality for everyone. It might not win over people who don't want to relive this traumatic experience, which is understandable. However, it's still worth a recommendation as both a movie and a crucial learning tool for every school on Earth. I don't know about elementary schools, but any school above that level should be okay with watching it.