‘He just doesn’t understand how things are different in Mississippi...’
The case of Emmett Till is a national disgrace for America of gigantic proportions. For those who don’t know the details, I won’t recount them here, but I would urge anyone not familiar with the story to research Till’s case at the first opportunity. It’s still sadly resonant today. Till attempts to tell Emmett’s story and while it has some powerful and poignant moments, it doesn’t quite do justice to what was a horrifying and damning miscarriage of justice…
Following a seemingly innocuous interaction with a white woman, a 14-year-old black child (Jalyn Hall) is kidnapped and murdered by a group of prominent and influential white men in small-town Mississippi. Following the discovery of his body, Emmett’s strong-willed mother Mamie (Danielle Deadwyler) starts a crusade that will echo through history.
Written and directed by Chinonye Chukwu (with co-writing credits for Michael Reilly and Keith Beauchamp), Till is a faithful retelling of the events leading up to the young boy’s death and the immediate aftermath. Chukwu does a great job of presenting the close relationship between Mamie and the child she called Bobo. While Deadwyler’s performance is a little ostentatious for my tastes (the grieving scenes go from being overwrought to just plain silly at points) there is no denying the power of Mamie’s story or the repercussions of Emmett’s murder. This is a sickening case that was and probably still is endemic of racial tensions in America. The fact that the story of Emmett Till is as prescient and timely as ever is truly the saddest takeaway from this whole sorry affair.
In the end, Till is a solid if unspectacular retelling of a well-known story that deserves to be retold and repackaged until it’s no longer relevant. I fear such a day will never come.