“Prejudices can kill, and suspicion can destroy. And the thoughtless frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own for the children and the children yet unborn.…” – Mamie Till-Mobley
In the summer of 1955, Mamie Till-Bradley (Danielle Deadwyler) was a war widow and the single mother of 14-year-old Emmett Lewis Till (Jalyn Hall). Mamie is struggling with being apart from her son during his upcoming trip to Mississippi to visit his cousins and their parents. In 1955, Chicago was so vastly different than Mississippi in how Negroes (the vernacular used in the movie) are treated. Mamie tries to prepare Emmett for this vast difference, but her warnings are not getting through.
It is not a spoiler to review what happened to Emmett in Money, MS. It is an indelible stain on our nation’s history. What exactly happened inside the store where Carolyn Bryant (Haley Bennett) was working when Emmett entered, is in dispute. So is exactly how she reacted in the aftermath of the encounter with Emmett.
Bryant’s husband Roy (Sean Michael Weber) and his half-brother John William “J. W.” Milam went to the home where Emmett was staying. They kidnapped him at gunpoint and drove away. The body of Emmett Till was not discovered until three days later.
Director Chinonye Chukwu, who co-wrote the screenplay with Michael Riley and Keith Beauchamp is telling the story of what happened after the discovery of Till’s body in this film. How the decision of Mamie Till-Bradley to hold an open-casket funeral for the son everyone referred to as “Bo” changed the landscape of race relations and civil rights in the U. S. We are treated to the spectacle of a totally unfair trial, with the blatant bigotry of the era in the Deep South on display for all to see. Medger Evers (Tosin Cole) played a pivotal role in assisting Mamie during her trip to and time in Mississippi for the trial.
Till is two hours and ten minutes long. That this writer did not glance at his watch once during the film is the strongest indication available f how captivating and engaging this movie is. Chukwu uses lighting in an unusual and effective way, not removing reflected light on windows and other items to give a more “real” appearance. She also uses going from poorly lit to brightly lit in a single shot, giving those scenes a nice aesthetic appearance.
All of that aside, this is a Danielle Deadwyler career-making performance. She takes us through highs and lows of a mother dealing with the murder of her son by seamlessly navigating the wide range of emotions she is experiencing. It is an incredible performance that is deserving of awards season recognition.
One other component of Till is that there is no “white savior” present anywhere. Perhaps someone who has not lived in Mississippi will be troubled by the pervasive racism among all of the white characters who have dialogue. I’ve lived there and seen it first-hand. It adds realism.