Danielle Deadwyler fights the power in more ways than you know.
“Till” is the true story about how a 14-year-old African American boy named Emmett Till was murdered by white people, after a white woman accused him of harassing her in their family grocery store. I saw this movie at the New York Film Festival with a big applause in the audience, and I sat next to a man who was crying at the horrors the boy’s mother had to suffer through. So I gave him a tissue.
Danielle Deadwyler, who was smart and sassy last year in “The Harder They Fall,” explodes with great intensity as the mother of Emmett Till (Jalyn Hall). Her name was Mamie Till, and all she wanted was her boy to travel from Chicago to Mississippi safely to visit his cousins. What started off as a kidnapping story ends up the boy’s murder.
The boy’s body is returned to Chicago, and for what those monsters did to him, he doesn’t look like Emmett Till. He’s all beaten up, with his teeth pulled out, and completely drowned. But his mother knows it’s her boy, especially since he was wearing his late father’s WWII ring on his finger.
Mamie wants to show the world her son’s corpse, so that they can see the horrors that African-Americans were forced to suffer, and they still suffer today in various parts. And when the two white men are on trial for murder, she must go down to Mississippi with her father (Frankie Faison) and fiancee (Sean Patrick Thomas) to bring them to justice.
Eventually, Mamie would become an educator and activist in Civil Rights Movement, and this year, the Emmet Till Anti-Lynching act would be signed. This is when the audience really breaks out into applause.
The woman who accused the boy of harassing her was named Carolyn Bryant, and she’s played her by Haley Bennett. She’s a blonde actress, but here, I’m not sure if that’s black wig or if she dyed her hair. Either way, it doesn’t do her much justice, although she seems like the kind of person who deserves to look bad.
But I’m not here to talk about hairstyles. I’m seeing “Till” to acknowledge how lynching is evil, and how this boy was innocent, and never deserved it. No African-American man ever deserves torture or abuse of any kind. I don’t discriminate people by their race or gender; I discriminate them by their actions. And this boy was far from a bad person. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Co-writer/director Chinonye Chukwu (“Clemency”) retells this true story at a PG-13 rating, but still makes us sad for Mamie Till and her son Emmett. It makes us sad when we see the corse, it makes was sad when we live in a racist world that keeps repeating history, it makes us mad when bad people get away with such heinous crimes, and it makes us happy when people are willing to fight for the right causes.
Deadwyler gives a powerful, Oscar-caliber performance in the ways she represents the mother’s anger and hatred toward racism. And it’s not just her, but Faison and Whoppi Goldberg (who also produced this) both have their moments of sincerity as her parents, Thomas adds a nice touch as her fiancé, and Hall is charming as the boy. We have an excellent ensemble cast, who know their past in order to know their present. “Till” couldn’t have come in a more timely fashion.
“Till” is a movie that’s guaranteed to attack your emotions, because you aren’t a racist, and you are a human being. The boy’s murderers were far from human beings. That boy was human being. His mother was a human being. And you support them all the way through.