“C’mon give momma a hug. See you when you get back.”
Story: You know the history; a sweet fourteen-year-old boy was lynched in Mississippi in August,1955. But this historical drama looks at “Bo”, his family, his trip South, his horrific murder, and the trial of his murderers.
Genre I’d put it in: Powerful Docudramas That Should Be Required Viewing
Release Date: 2022
Remake, Sequel, Based-On, or Original: Based on the real-life story of Emmett “Bo” Till, his brutal murder by lynching, and the trial of his murderers
Gotta say: We’re all taught the bare-bones basics of Emmett Till. How he was lynched, brutalized beyond all basic recognition (to most), and how his death was a catalyst for civil rights. But there’s so much Till taught me about this heartbreaking event, basics that should be taught as core curriculum…especially now, when hate has not only reared its ugly head, but seems proud to be seen and acknowledged.
With Till, Director Chinonye Chukwu shows she’s a cinematic force to be reckoned with. Her way with the story feels so genuine it feels like cinéma vérité, but for the gorgeous cinematography and beautifully composed blocking of each scene. Example? If that opening scene of Mamie and Emmett, laughing and dancing, doesn’t melt your heart? You are dead inside. And when he gets on the train headed for Mississippi? Even though I knew what would happen, I couldn’t help but hope it’d be different. That he’d be safe. That’s a testament to the way Chukwu and her cast created a sweet look at Till and his family, giving them the humanity his murderers – and Mississippi courts – tried to take away in real life.
Danielle Deadwyler, who I hope doesn’t get forgotten when awards start flying, plays Mamie as an adoring mother whose love hid a backbone of iron she never knew she had. And Jalyn Hall, who melted my heart and stole every scene he was in as Emmett/Bo? Delivers a performance that holds the story together, even when the world around these characters is falling apart. I’d no idea Evers had played a part in the trial of Emmett’s murderers. But yep, he did. Seriously; this film feels like a history lesson I should have had years ago. But with incredible performances, jaw-dropping visuals, and dialogue that feels important yet honest.
Speaking of visuals, I want to make sure y’all know one thing; as Mamie did with her son, Till does. Which means there is an unflinching look at what happened to young Emmett after his lynching. And while I know in my heart what was onscreen was FX? It made it no easier to stomach. Be aware that if you’re sensitive to these types of visuals, they are here. And though it was an extremely important moment in history, I would never judge anyone for turning away. (I wanted to myself, a few times.) Several of the shots in Till that focus on the trial and funeral are pulled from actual photos from the time, lending a historic vibe in addition to the already powerful message.
Till can take its place among the rare breed of films that show history, and tell us more about the moment than we’d ever known. I hope schools send groups to see this film, and that teachers lead discussions on Emmett, his legacy, and current events. Now more than ever, these discussions are important. If not just for today, then for the generations who’ll come after we’re gone.
#Protip: As for the walking piece of human garbage who caused his lynching? Looks like she’ll never be brought to trial. But she should be. And her “memoir” looks to be a literal whitewash…I’ll never forget the photo of her laughing during her husband’s trial (a husband who later confessed to the lynching); that’s the face of hate. Smiles and laughter. Never forget, y’all.