Going into the film Till, I was expecting a “Hollywood” biopic that would remind today’s viewers of a “true story” racial tragedy from what seems like long ago (1955). The tragedy would no doubt shock us with its injustice, but in typical “Hollywood” fashion, provide an inspiring and uplifting way to show us how the tragedy was a spark of the civil rights movement in the following decade.
Till is not that film…and it is better for it.
I was not expecting the buildup of grief that was masterfully delivered on screen by director Chinonye Chukwu and the stellar cast of Till. The focus of that grief specifically on a mother who loses a son to a senseless racial crime followed by the strength and resolve necessary to not only carry on but to seek justice and find purpose through that strength.
The film starts by showing us the loving relationship between 14-year-old Emmett Till (Jayln Hall) and his mother Mamie Till-Mobley (Danielle Deadwyler) as Emmett excitedly prepares for his upcoming trip to the south to see his family in Mississippi.
The connection between both Hall and Deadwyler feels authentic which only serves to drive home the impending tragedy that follows. Hall is excellent as the likable and carefree teenage Emmett Till during the first act of the film. Upon his tragic murder, we in the audience also miss his energetic performance in the scenes that follow as we have lost Emmett as well.
Deadwyler delivers a masterful performance as she goes through the realization of loss, grief, and the strength that follows. It is Deadwyler’s journey of emotion and strength which makes this film stand out from the standard “Hollywood” biopic. We feel her rawest of human emotions and in turn, we too have lost a son on this journey. Reminding us that the story of Emmett Till could have been about a loved one of our own.
Till is a masterclass of performance, serving to remind today’s viewers of history from not that long ago, that shouldn’t be forgotten.
4.5 out of 5 stars.