TILL Review


Every year when the Oscar nominations are read out it seems that there is one film that misses out in a criminally horrible mistake on the behalf of the Academy. At the time when this year’s nominations were announced I hadn’t seen Chinonye Chukwu’s movie Till – now that I am I am one of those people who is now saying that the Academy got it horribly wrong when they didn’t nominate actress Danielle Deadwyler (The Harder They Fall) for her role in this film because this is not only one of the best performances from an actress that I have seen this year on screen – this is one of the best performances that I have ever seen.

This biographical tale tells the story of American Civil Rights activist and educator Mamie Till-Mobley (Deadwyler) and shows what led her to becoming such a powerful figure. The story begins in Chicago in the year 1955 when Mamie kisses her confident and happy son, Emmett Till (Jalyn Hall – Bruiser), goodbye as he fulfills his Grandmother’s (Whoopi Goldberg – Sister Act) wishes to go and visit his cousins in Mississippi.

Before he leaves Mamie warns him that to be careful around white people in Mississippi but of course like most 14-year-old boys he takes the warning with a grain of salt and soon finds himself in trouble when his actions around Carolyn Bryant (Haley Bennett – The Girl On The Train) offend her. Not long after Emmett is kidnapped, tortured, and then killed and Mamie begins her push for justice after she contacted by her cousin and lawyer Rayfield Mooty (Kevin Carroll – Being John Malkovich) who introduces her to a young activist named William Huff (Keith Arthur Bolden – Cobra Kai) who feels that her story can help bring real change.

I found Till to be a film that will leave a lasting legacy on its audience. It reminded me of the time that my history teacher at High School felt that the class wasn’t truly understanding what happen in America’s south during the 1950s so he threw on a VHS copy of Mississippi Burning. What I saw with that film on that day lasts with me even today and no I can also say that Till is a film that will stay with me for a similar reason – it is just so powerful at getting its story across.

To the credit of both director Chinonye Chukwu and her co-screenwriters Michael Reilly (Happy Birthday To Me) and Keith Beauchamp (Wanted Justice: Johnnie Mae Campbell) the script makes this more than just a ‘seeking justice’ film. The film explores just how Mami dealt with the fact that early on she felt that people like Mooty and Huff were politicising her son’s death and using it for their own cause. In fact one of the most powerful scenes I found in this film was when Mamie finally lets go of all of her emotions and lets Mooty have it as he talks about his plans for what he is going to do.

It is hard not to find yourself getting angry as you watch this film. The notion of lynching seems like such a ridiculous and barbaric thing you can hardly imagine anyone ever doing it to another human being yet here we also see a whole state full of people fully justifying it. As various characters gave evidence in the court room during Till I found myself gripping the arm of the chair in the cinema as anger rose inside me. I only realised later just how powerful those scenes were and I credit Chukwu for bringing that intensity and emotion to the screen.

What will also stay with me about this film is the performance of Danielle Deadwyler. This is an actress that Hollywood needs to sit up and take notice of. Her performance here is emotional and brings a power to the screen that we rarely see in modern day cinema. The scenes in which she depicts a mother seeing the dead body of her son are harrowing while the moments in the court room when she gives evidence are gripping and contain one of the best performances of an actress I have ever seen on screen. Her facial expressions and what she does with her eyes during that sequence is far beyond just a good acting performance – this is a great acting performance and one that should of certainly earnt her an Oscar nomination.

Till is one of the most powerful films that I have seen in a long time. The performance of Danielle Deadwyler and the story itself will stick with me for a long time and I cannot recommend this film highly enough.

4/5 Stars