TL;DR – This is a heartbreaking film that soars thanks to a stunning performance but also struggles to stay out of its own way in parts.
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Disclosure – I was invited to a press screening of this film.
Till Review –
I am not sure there is anyone who is going to see this film that does not know what happened to Emmett Till on that awful day in Mississippi. The question is, how do you come to a movie when your audience already knows every terrible beat coming? Till’s answer to this question is to make every moment land with the force of a hurricane.
So to set the scene, it was Chicago in 1955, and Mamie Till (Danielle Deadwyler) is taking her son Emmett Till (Jalyn Hall) shopping for a new wallet and shoes because he is about to spend some time by himself down in Mississippi with his cousins. Mamie is concerned because he has never spent that amount of time away from her, and the South is not a safe place to be. But Emmett is having a blast with his cousins until he accidentally ‘offends’ a white woman Carolyn Bryant (Haley Bennett), and soon some white men come into his uncle’s (John Douglas Thompson) house and drag him out of bed.
To say this is a hard film to watch at times is to put it mildly. Even knowing what will happen, you look in horror as it unfolds. The casual inhumanity of it all is galling. But it is also hard to watch because you are reminded that this is not a film exploring the deep past of a different time. No, there are still people alive today that were directly involved in the crime. This is a story very much about the world today as it is about the world of the past. It is also a film that knows when to obfuscate and when to show the full horror. That horror can come from brutish violence handed out or the pedestrian nature of how people slip into prejudice.
All of this is bound up in one of the best performances I have seen all year. I first saw Danielle Deadwyler in Station Eleven and knew she was someone to look out for. Every moment she is on screen is captivating, a masterclass in control and profound grief. This film mostly follows Mamie’s story and how she responds to the tragedy; without Danielle there, the film would not have worked as well as it did. Jalyn Hall is haunting as Emmett because he brings such joy and charm to the role, with a smile that breaks your heart. Whoopi Goldberg, Frankie Faison & Haley Bennett also anchor a strong supporting cast that sucks you into every scene.
From a production side of things, we see the film’s strengths but also some of its weaknesses. Every moment is picture perfect of the time it was set, every dress, every car, the houses, all of it. You can see the care and attention that has gone into every scene, every moment. However, I sometimes felt that the musical score did not work in places, actively getting in the way of the emotional resonance. Also, there was some genuinely awkward Coca-Cola product placement.
In the end, do we recommend Till? This film could be nothing but Danielle Deadwyler’s performance, and I would still recommend it. More than that, it is shining a light on the part of world history that we like to avoid because it makes us uncomfortable, but maybe that is what we need at the moment. If you were compelled by Till, I would recommend to you Sweet Country.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Till
Directed by – Chinonye Chukwu
Written by – Michael Reilly, Keith Beauchamp & Chinonye Chukwu
Music by – Abel Korzeniowski
Cinematography by – Bobby Bukowski
Edited by – Ron Patane
Production/Distribution Companies – Orion Pictures, Eon Productions, Frederick Zollo Productions, Whoop, Inc., United Artists Releasing & Universal Pictures.
Starring – Danielle Deadwyler, Jalyn Hall, Frankie Faison, Haley Bennett, Whoopi Goldberg, Jayme Lawson, Tosin Cole, Kevin Carroll, Sean Patrick Thomas, John Douglas Thompson, Roger Guenveur Smith, Eric Whitten & Sean Michael Weber
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; Germany: 12; New Zealand: na; United Kingdom: 12A; United States: PG-13