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‘Till’ Review: A Must-See True Story That Should Never Be Forgotten

DIR. Chinonye Chukwu — 5 stars

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Whether for the film’s portrayal of the horrors of racism or its commentary on the importance of fighting for justice, everyone should see “Till.” The film follows Mamie Till-Mobley (Danielle Deadwyler), the real-life mother of Emmett Till, as she grapples with her grief and fights for changes to segregation and racial equality in America. Emmett was only fourteen years old when he was lynched in 1955 during a trip he took alone to Mississippi. After discovering the truth about what happened to her son, Till-Mobley courageously spoke out about racial injustice, becoming an activist.

Above all, “Till” succeeds in telling an emotional and even hard-to-watch story in order to convey an effective message about the severity of segregation during this time. The film begins by depicting the days before Emmett Till traveled to Mississippi, and it features a compelling sequence showing his youthful and happy nature. From the start of the film, audiences already know the ending of this story. However, by effectively conveying aspects of Emmett’s personality, it gives the audience a bigger picture of the realities of bigotry.

Deadwyler delivers an electrifying performance that compellingly carries each scene of the film. Deadwyler shines most in the heartbreaking scenes in which she realizes what happened to her son. The most striking scene in the film is the uncovering of Emmett’s deceased body in front of his mother at the funeral home. This scene was so striking that it would be no surprise if the audience turned away from the screen to escape the horrors of Emmett’s body after the attack occurred. Gruesome as the scene might be, Till-Mobley wanted the world to see what happened to her son to fully realize the horrors of segregation in the 1950s, so it is fitting for the film to further this goal.

As described in the film, it is easy to listen to Emmett Till’s story and not realize the horror of the realities that took place in 1950s America. This decision to include the body of Emmett Till in several scenes in the film furthered Till-Mobley’s wish to broadcast the extent of what happened to her son to all.

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In addition to standing out in scenes of tragedy, Deadwyler gives a remarkable performance that shows what it means to be a mother and to care so deeply for one's child. Throughout the film, Deadwyler shows audiences what it means to be fully immersed in her character and to believe in her role and the message it conveys, using powerful expressions and memorable line deliveries. Jayln Hall similarly shines in his role as young Emmett, displaying Emmett’s playful innocence and kind demeanor. This performance sets up a devastating second half of the film, as his mother must grapple with the loss of her vibrant, loveable boy.

When speaking about her role, Deadwyler noted the significance in understanding more about Till-Mobley than just surface-level knowledge.

"We know this very black-and-white binary understanding of her experience. We know that she made a significant choice that was the catalyst for the civil-rights movement. And we saw the image of his body, we saw the various images of her in deep mourning, but you don't necessarily see all of the triumphant awareness and the brilliance — and, specifically, the power that she began to stand in,” she told Entertainment Weekly.

There is no doubt that “Till” could be considered the most heart-breaking historical retelling of the year. The film depicts several scenes that are difficult to watch; however, in doing so, it tackles many important themes relating to segregation and Till’s murder. It is important to understand that these events took place not that long ago, and it is vital for this story to continue to be told.

—Staff writer Monique I. Vobecky can be reached at monique.vobecky@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @moniquevobecky.

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