Danielle Deadwyler gives a riveting performance in Till, a tearful drama about the kidnapping, torture, and lynching of young Emmitt Till and his mother’s gutwrenching decision to use his death–and photos of his bludgeoned, bloated, unrecognizable face–to bring national attention to the plight of Blacks in the Jim Crow South.
A straightforward drama that harkens back to a simpler age, Till is nonetheless well-done, fast-paced, and engrossing. Director Chinonye Chukwu (Clemency) nails the delivery, hits the high (and low) notes, and makes Till a must-see this awards season, even if it’s a bit too traditional to impress cinephiles.
As good as the movie is, it’s Danielle Deadwyler’s show. Chukwu, who co-wrote the film with Michael Reilly and Keith Beauchamp, rightfully makes the movie about Mamie Till-Mobley–not Emmitt–and places the full load of the emotional heft on Deadwyler’s shoulders. Deadwyler is up to the task; she gives the most explosively emotional performance of the year.
The screenplay is good, but she elevates the material. Her best scenes, if you can differentiate, come when Mamie must stand strong; you can literally see the pain and anger stirring just beneath her skin, fighting to break free. It’s something to behold.
Till may not be the most complex movie, but it’s a heart wrenching reminder of racism and bigotry, but also that in the face of hatred, positive change can happen with perseverance.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.