An incredibly powerful film that has historical significance.
Till tells the story of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black teenager who was brutally beaten and hanged visiting a cousin in Mississippi in 1955. His mutilated body was found in a river.
To the credit of Director Chinonye Chukwu, the movie concentrates on the reaction of Till’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, while avoiding unnecessary scenes of his hideous killing. In doing so, you are able to embrace a mom whose heart is being ripped out over the loss of her only child.
To begin with, Danielle Deadwyler gives an Oscar worthy performance as Mamie. She has been forced to raise her son, Emmett, alone after her husband was killed in Europe during WWII. Reluctantly, agreeing to let Emmett travel to Mississippi to visit a relative, she warned him to remember he was black. A Mississippi political organizer had been murdered a week before and Mom tells her son to “Be Small”. But Emmett’s lovable teenage antics lead to an encounter with a white woman (Haley Bennett) running a store, which leads to armed white men forcing him from his cousin’s home and his death follows.
What make this film a brilliant work of art is Mamie’s reaction upon learning of her son’s death. Agony and hysteria are followed by her demand that Emmett’s body be brought back to Chicago for burial.
However, she soon realized that the death of her son had national meaning. She insisted that his casket remain open so that everyone could see his brutally mutilated body.
This is followed by her courageous decision to travel to Mississippi to testify at the trial of the two white men accused of killing Emmett. However, she didn’t let her misery cloud her judgment and she insisted on leaving the south before a verdict was returned. She knew what was coming with a jury consisting of 12 white men.
Though Jalyn Hall and Whoopi Goldberg do a great job playing Emmett and his grandmother, I can safely say that you will never forget Ms. Deadwyler’s performance. Mamie transforms her pain and agony into a passion to seek justice for Black Americans. She wanted the public to see what these southern racists had done to her son. She helped breathe life into the Civil Rights Movement which resulted, 67 years after Emmett’s death, into Congress enacting The Emmett Till Antilynching Act in 2022.
We live in a country founded on racism. Centuries of slavery was followed by segregation, voter suppression and a ban on inter-racial marriage. Sure, progress has been made, but we still have a long way to go.
One of my favorite scenes is when Mamie visits her old home in Chicago. As music softly played, you watch her smile as she sees Emmett grinning at her.
Bring some tissues to the theater, you will need them!