Stars: Danielle Deadwyler, Jalyn Hall, Frankie Faison, Haley Bennett, Jamie Rennell, Whoopi Goldberg, Sean Patrick Thomas and John Douglas Thompson
Director: Chinonya Chuksu
Scriptwriters: Keith Beauchamp, Chinonya Chuksu and Michael Reilly
Composer: Abel Korzeniowski
Cinematography: Bobby Bukowski
Eon Productions/United Artists/Universal Pictures
Rating: PG-13 and be aware of violence and themed material
Running Time: 130 Minutes
Director Chinonya Chuksu (“Clemency”) brings to the screen the story of Emmett Till A young black man who ventures from his home in Chicago to travel to Mississippi and visit relatives. Till left Chicago alive and was returned dead. He was 14 years old. Emmett Till’s life has been in the news since his death in 1955. This film is centered on Emmett Till’s mother “Mamie”, (a star performance by Danielle Deadwyler from “Station Eleven"). Chuksu allows the camera to dwell on Mamie’s face and we see passion, love, rage pass back and forth. This is a film that centers on passion.
“Till” begins with his mother preparing Emmett (Jalyn Hall from “All American”) for a trip to Mississippi by train and to visit relatives. Is it safe at this time for a black man to travel to the South? There are doubts and we see that later, relatives, including Alma Carthan, Mamie’s mother (Whoopi Goldberg from “Star Trek: Picard”) and Emmett’s Uncle (John Douglas Thompson). One person persuaded him to travel and visit relatives, while the other could have saved him from the violence. Grief lingers for a lifetime. Mamie is worried about Emmett and what happens is a nightmare. Emmett supposedly whistled at a white woman, Carolyn Bryant (Haley Bennett from “Cyrano”), and then he was taken, viciously beaten, and drowned by members of the Bryant family. Emmett’s body was mutilated when found and his casket was an open casket by his mother’s command. She wanted the world to see what happened to a young black man in a southern state. From here on, there is a search for justice, each scene filled with emotion. It is not an easy film to see. Till’s murder is not shown.
“Till” really belongs to actress Danielle Deadwyler and her facial expressions tell a story by themselves. Sometimes you do not need dialogue. This death has been in the news for the past 70 years and the town Emmett Till visited, Money, Mississippi is now well known. When Deadwyler speaks, it is with passion, and this continues though the sorrow of Whoopi Goldberg’s “Alma” and John Douglas Thompson’s “Moses.”
Emmett Till’s disappearance and when his body was found, made everyone think twice about going to the southern states for any kind of business trip or family vacation. This film is heavy drama and doesn’t lighten up on the audience. You know what is going to happen, but when? The cinematography by Bobby Bukowski centers on the actors faces and gestures, which tell their own story. Unfortunately, Abel Korzeniowski’s soundtrack is overwhelming at times and takes away from dramatic moments, such as toward the end of the film.
It has taken over 60 years for the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act to pass. The wheels of justice were going very slow here. A part of American history that is difficult to read about and watch, but it happened and caused fear for each African-American mother when her son leaves the house. The unknown is still out there.
Copyright 2022 Marie Asner