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Director: Chinonye Chukwu | Script: Michael Reilly, Keith Beauchamp and Chinonye Chukwu | Cast: Danielle Deadwyler (Mamie Till-Mobley), Jalyn Hall (Emmette Till), Frankie Faison (John Carthan), Haley Bennett (Carolyn Bryant), Whoopi Goldberg (Alma Carthan), Sean Patrick Thomas (Gene Mobley), ea | Time to play: 130 minutes | Year: 2022
Emmett ‘Bobo’ Till was a cheerful and jovial fourteen-year-old boy with a slight stutter that he cured by singing. He lived with his mother in Chicago and in the summer of 1955 he went to stay with relatives in Money, Mississippi. After an afternoon cotton picking with his cousins, Emmett bought some candy from a grocery store. He compared the white saleswoman to a movie actress and whistled at her. A few days later, Emmett was found dead and badly mutilated near a river.
Unfortunately, as long as racism is not out of the world, there is still a need to tell stories like the brutal lynching of Emmett Till. In addition to the events that led the boy to meet a brutal death, the biopic of him deals with Until especially about the unimaginable strength and unprecedented courage of his mother Mamie. The woman soon takes matters into her own hands and decides to confront American society with the horrors of racial hatred.
Racism seeps into almost every frame of Chinonye Chukwu’s true-life drama, even when it’s not about it. Covertly, when Mamie is pointed out in a fancy shoe store that “there are shoes in the basement, too,” but also extremely explicitly when the local sheriff can’t keep his blatant insults in court. You don’t feel anything if this doesn’t bother you, because the great sense of injustice is only feeding more and more along the way.
It has come as a surprise to many that leading lady Danielle Deadwyler was not allowed to choose an Oscar dress, for in addition to the many stages of mourning and disbelief, it also shows an unprecedented combative woman. She this is clearly a lady who will not be cornered, let alone told what to think or do. Deadwyler is therefore the inspirational pivot to address the injustices that affected the black population, especially in the southern United States.
Screenwriter Keith Beauchamp spent almost thirty years investigating the murder of Emmett Till, even getting the case reopened. In this way, the attention to the gruesome and senseless act contributes to the fight against racial hatred to this day. Beauchamp and his co-writers also provided a balanced and nuanced picture of the black community in the 1950s. It contrasts sharply with the strict division between good and evil that is also constantly present.
For example, Mamie warns her son that they see things differently in Mississippi compared to Chicago. She advises her son that it is better to keep her mouth shut or meekly apologize if she has offended a white human being. When Till is roused from bed days after the grocery store incident, black accomplices are also among the perpetrators. He only does the most distressing things.
Chukwu sometimes plays the sentimental card, for example when emphasizing the obvious last meeting between mother and son, but the filmmaker can hardly be blamed. The fact that racism continues to exist in all its intensity is not only a sign of man’s inability to develop and advance knowledge, but also the justification for films like this one. In that sense, the ubiquitous presence of social media, which makes it harder to hide things, is a blessing.