In 1955, after Emmett Till is murdered in a brutal lynching, his mother vows to expose the racism behind the attack while working to have those involved brought to justice.

Emmett Till was a 14 year old black boy who was lynched for the ‘crime’ of supposedly whistling at a white woman in Mississippi in 1953. His murder sent shockwaves through the nation and is remembered nowadays as a key catalyst for the next phase of the civil rights movement, and serving as an important reminder of the horrendous discrimination and conditions that existed for black people in parts of the United States at the time. ‘Till’ is a movie telling Emmett’s story through the eyes of his mother Mamie Till-Bradley (Danielle Deadwyler), a woman who fought for justice for her son and for change for her community in the aftermath of this unspeakable tragedy.

The first act of the movie introduces us to Emmett (played winningly by Jalyn Hall) as a cheeky, happy young boy who entertains his family with dancing and jokes in their home city of Chicago, a city that by the standards of 1950s America was relatively safe for black people. Visiting his cousins in Money, Mississippi, Emmett is warned by his mother that the environment he is going to is more hostile, but his cheerful and positive outlook makes him tragically naïve to just how hostile it could be. The movie shows the incident that ultimately led to Emmett’s death involving a white female shopkeeper (played by Haley Bennett), but wisely keeps his murder off screen. It also wisely never really shows the perpetrators (Bennett’s character aside) – the point landing that in this place at this time it could have been anyone that committed this heinous crime.

From this point onwards the film belongs to Danielle Deadwyler who is utterly heartbreaking as the grieving mother, and utterly inspiring in how she draws strength to fight through her grief and channel her pain in a way that slowly started to lead to positive change in her country. Besides the undoubted power of the events depicted, this is a really well directed movie from Chinonye Chukwu (her previous film ‘Clemency’ was also superb), with brilliant stylistic choices that heighten the impact of the key moments. I was particularly drawn to the framing choices, often arrowing in on Mamie’s face whilst blurring or missing out those surrounding her – it’s ultimately a movie about her strength in the face of unimaginable tragedy and the camerawork really excels at putting us into her headspace. Her monologue in court, for example, is a perfect blend of acting and directing that had me entirely captivated.

Till’ is a movie of raw and unflinching power, led by a mesmerising performance from Danielle Deadwyler as the grieving mother at its centre. A fitting tribute to the lifelong work of Mamie Till-Bradley, and a tasteful, well crafted movie about Emmett Till’s horrific murder.

Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Chinonye Chukwu

Starring: Danielle Deadwyler, Jalyn Hall, Frankie Faison, Haley Bennett, Whoopi Goldberg, Jayme Lawson, Tosin Cole, Kevin Carroll, Sean Patrick Thomas, John Douglas Thompson, Roger Guenveur Smith and Eric Whitten


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