“Till” is one of the finest films of the year.
Chinonye Chukwu (“Clemency”) directed this movie that is not an easy watch. It’s based on a shameful part of American history: The murder of Emmett Till, a Black teenager, who, in 1955, allegedly whistled at a white woman and paid the price of his life.
Of course, the audience meets Emmett (Jalyn Hall, “The House with a Clock in Its Walls”) who lives happily with his mother, Mamie (Danielle Deadwyler, “The Harder They Fall”) in Chicago.
Mamie and Emmett are preparing for him to head to Mississippi to visit his cousins and other family members. But Mamie really doesn’t want him to leave. She understands racial tension in the South. She has a frank talk with her son about how he needs to act to stay safe: “Make yourself small,” she says.
Emmett makes a joke about her advice. His innocence and good humor are painfully evident as he heads toward a horror his mother cannot imagine.
The film sticks to the facts of this ghastly chapter in American history and earns its place as a must-see film for people who may never have heard of Emmett Till (I am surprised, as I have talked about this movie for the last few days, how many people are unfamiliar with his story.)
The focus here is on the courage of Mamie, and the decisions she must make with the eyes of a nation on her.
The performances are terrific. Deadwyler’s superb portrayal is bound to wring tears from viewers … and she does it without saying a word. Mamie’s mother, Alma, is played wonderfully by Whoopi Goldberg.
This is one of the most powerful films I’ve ever seen, in this year or any other.
Rated: PG-13 for disturbing images, racial slurs and foul language.
Running time: Two hours and 10 minutes.
At Cinemark, Davenport, and Regal, Moline.
Watch the trailer here.