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Till: The Story of Emmett’s Murder and What Mamie Till-Mobley Did About It

November 12, 2022

Till movie poster

In this review by Ron Wells, learn why Till is one of the most important films of 2022.
Emmett Till, an African-American teenager, was lynched by two white men in Mississippi in 1955, but this film focuses as much, if not more, on Mamie Till-Mobley, Emmett’s mother. For it becomes a mother’s scream as she hears of her 14 year old son’s death, and then finds the strength to fight for his humanity. She seeks to have his mutilated body returned to Chicago where she is living, and then she decides to go to Mississippi where her son’s murderers will stand trial for Emmett’s death.

Directed by Chinonye Chukwu from a script written by Michael Reilly, Keith Beauchamp, and Director Chukwu, Till begins with the mother and her son in Chicago as he plans his trip to see relatives in Mississippi with his mother’s words to “be small’ and “be careful with white people” echoing as  premonitions of what is to come.

 

Danielle Deadwyler catches every possible emotion from sadness, to anger, to outrage and fury as she learns more and more about her son’s murder. Her performance is absolutely devastating, as she embodies every mother’s deepest despair after having lost a child, and specifically every African-American mother’s grief and anger knowing that their child has been killed by white men carrying the horrific and racist flag of hate as they torture and mutilate the black child in the name of all that is evil.
The actors are all excellent, but it is Deadwyler who lingers in your mind long after the film has ended. Two scenes jump to mind as especially powerful. The first is when Emmett’s body is brought to Chicago and Mamie asks everyone to leave the room as she slowly uncovers her son’s body, looking at every inch of the mutilated corpse so as not only identify him, but to remember who he once was. Watching her viewing her son’s body is gut wrenching. It is for this reason that she demands an open casket at his funeral so the world will know the truth about what was done to him.
Later, at the trial of her son’s killers, the look on her face as she answers every question posed to her, you see in her eyes the deep love that she holds for her son and the immense strength that will allow her to answer every false accusation about herself, her husband, and her son, even though she knows what the outcome of the trial will be. What one sees in Deadwyler goes far beyond acting. This is emotion coming straight from her soul.
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Mamie will go on to join the Civil Rights Movement and Emmet’s death will become a touchstone for that movement, just as MLK’s death did, and Rosa Park’s actions did, and Medgar Ever’s murder did. The list of names goes on and on
The Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Bill will finally be passed by Congress in 2022. 
Some facts in the film are still open to other interpretations, but the core essence of the movie is stronger than ever. Amidst all the Marvel super hero movies, this is one with a message that shouts loudly that this lynching should never be forgotten. And, even louder than that, is the primal scream and courage in Deadwyler’s steely performance  of  a mother whose child was taken from this world far too early in his life and for no good reason. Somewhere, Nina Simone is singing “Mississippi, God Damn,” but that does not cover a wide enough area. It resonates far beyond the borders of Mississippi, and this film shows you why that is. Written by Ron Wells 
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