REVIEW: While flawed, ‘Till’ is a creditable effort

A horrific moment in America’s history followed by awful injustice is featured in the emotionally charged “Till.”

Danielle Deadwyler portrays Mamie Till-Mobley, whose son Emmett (Jalyn Hall) was killed during a visit to Mississippi in 1955. The movie dramatizes the events that took place in Mississippi where, in a racism-fueled action, Emmett was abducted and murdered in the middle of the night.

It then documents how Mamie showed Emmett’s body to the press, revealing the brutality of the attack and the subsequent trial against the individuals responsible. It also details the overall impact the moment had on the Civil Rights Movement.

The story of Emmett Till and the actions his mother took in the aftermath of his murder is an incredibly important one to tell. It’s a story that shines a spotlight on the horrors that many Americans had to go through because of the racism that existed then, and is powerful in that it’s a reminder that the issue still plagues the country today.

“Till” tells that story and it certainly elicited heavy emotions. The portrayal of the murder, funeral and subsequent trial all have moments that makes a viewer angry and disgusted with those responsible, as well as the system that allowed this to happen with few consequences.

One just wishes the story was told with better execution. It’s an admirable effort to capture what happened to Emmett and what it led to in this country. However, as a film, the quality at times seems like a made-for-TV movie.

Courtesy Orion Pictures

The plot, for example, has a rather generic structure. It simply dramatizes the events from where it started with Emmett leaving Chicago to the conclusion where Mamie becomes an activist. The movie is procedural, seeming more like a surface-level look at what happened without truly digging deeper.

There’s a sense that the film could have focused more on who Emmett was before his murder, and what his mother went through after as she became a fighter for civil rights. That’s not to say the film should have minimized the night of the murder, or the funeral for that matter.

There was more going on before and after, though. With a better plot to explore the full scope of this event and the impact it had on the country, the movie likely would have been much stronger.

Some of the technical aspects leave a bit to be desired, too. Visually, the film has a vibrant color palette and a crisp look to it, which clashes with what was being portrayed. The movie also relies on its score in some scenes more than it should.

“Till” is a movie worth seeing because it truly is a moment in American history that needs to be acknowledged and remembered. While it falls short in some areas cinematically, director Chinonye Chukwu’s film is still decently made, respectful to the historical event and features a powerful performance from lead actress Danielle Deadwyler as Mamie. 3 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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