The story of Emmett Till has been well documented in the annals of time. Whether it be on the news or in the history books this was a story that moved a nation to change. How and why Chinonye Chukwu decided to tell this story is the reason I’m here writing this review. She decided to tell this story from the perspective of his mother which is very powerful. That one decision proved to be very good because this film is one of the best of the year thus far.
Mamie Till-Mobley (Danielle Deadwyler) is a single mother working in an office where she’s the only Black woman in Chicago, Illinois in 1955. She has a son Emmett or “Bo Bo” Till (Jalyn Hall) as he’s called. He is the light of her life. Everything she does is to try to give him a better life. So when her son goes to Mississippi to visit his cousins for a few weeks she is concerned. His personality shows out and he can’t help being who he is. That true nature is what ends up getting him killed. But that’s just the beginning of this tragic story.
Danielle Deadwyler strips down her performance to the bone. She goes to places as this woman grieving for her son rarely seen by any actress all year or before this. The emotions she goes through and the tears she lets fall down her face are like waterfalls flowing down a cliffside. She puts it all out there and she has now put herself in the conversation for Best Actress at next year’s Academy Awards. What she did with this performance shows how important this role was to her. She will elicit this response from those watching the film as well.
Besides the great performance by Deadwyler, the director Chukwu had gotten some other talented people to work on this film and make it distinctly her own vision of this family’s story. The cinematography of Bobby Bukowsky is brilliant. He has chosen a vibrant color palette where the dresses worn by Deadwyler are pink and lime green. when the film takes place in Chicago. All around the city and people within it are very colorful. And when the movie goes to the south of Money, Mississippi the colors are more tans and browns and after the tragic death of Till, there are a lot of Blacks and Greys showing the gravity of what happened. The colors definitely show how this film changed from behind to end.
Another aspect of the movie that makes it great is the overall camera work by the filmmaker. Her choices of how she zooms in and out in various moments where specific moments are very dramatic and filled with gravity. The way during certain situations the camera moves from one side to the other and or up and down shows in these moments how important they are in regards to the audience watching. She wanted to show that these moments were important and that showed. The technical aspects of the movie are incredible.
Along with the look of the film also comes the sound of the movie. The score by Abel Korzeniowski is by far one of if not the best of the year so far. There are many moments in the film where violins are heard and these parts are very dramatic and difficult to watch. The stringed instruments are just amazing throughout the entire movie. This score is almost overpowering where it’s not too much but just enough to where it is very noticeable. I don’t think I’ve heard a score this good all year. Even though there are a lot of films I have yet to see, I don’t think I’ll hear a score this good. This may be the best of the year come awards season. Time will only tell.
The cast of the movie isn’t just about Deadwyler and Hall though. Chuku has assembled a fantastic can’t of Black and white actors who round out this movie. People like Academy Award Winner Whoopi Goldberg the mother of Deadwyler’s character, Jamie Lawson as Medger Evers’s wife and friend to Deadwyler’s character, Tosin Cole as Medger Evers, and in a turn down the dark side Haley Bennett as Carolyn Bryant the woman who started this tragedy to unfold. She gives a nasty performance. The faces she makes in court show the true nature of who she is. This is an amazing cast that compliments nicely Deadwyler’s awards-worthy performance.
The story of Emmett Till is a story that obviously resonates with a major portion of this country. I am not one of those people but I am a film fan and I have to review this film and I can honestly say this is one of the best films of the year. It has very emotional moments of Deadwyler baring her soul on screen for the whole world to see. It has a look that becomes distinctly different during the second half of the film. The camera work and cinematography are brilliant and I rarely use that word. The score is beautiful yet painful in a good way to listen to throughout the movie. Till is clearly one of the best movies of the year and the way the filmmaker has chosen to create this story for the first time on film is indicative of how important it was. This movie made me an emotional wreck and I do not doubt that audiences will leave theaters in the same state I was. Wow just wow!
Dan Skip Allen