Every year, November marks the kick off for the season of the major Oscar contenders. This year started off strong back in March with Everything, Everywhere, All At Once (2022), The Batman (2022), and The Northman (2022)—all of which have remained in my top three of the year up until this point. Half a year later, with tons of more popcorn fare in between, we have finally entered the award season stretch. Over the course of the past few days, I have seen five films that have all met and exceeded my expectations, and they all contain phenomenal aspects of filmmaking that I believe hold significant chances at achieving accolades come Oscar time. First up is the incredible historical drama, Till (2022). Seeing as this is based on one of the most culturally significant events in America’s Civil Rights Movement, I will mention some “story spoilers”, but if you know anything about the tragedy of Emmett Till, none of these “spoilers” should come as a surprise.
Till is inspired by the true story of Mamie Till-Mobley (played by Danielle Deadwyler), who sought justice following the lynching of her son Emmett Till (played by Jalyn Hall). This incredible true story begins as Mamie is worrying over sending Emmett to visit his cousins in Mississippi, as she has raised him to love and feels that she hasn’t prepared him for hate. The course of the story shows the events that lead up to the tragic lynching and ends with Mamie and her family continuing their fight for all of Black America with the NAACP.
Till is a film that could’ve gone wrong in so many ways, but the way the director, Chinonye Chukwu, handles these horrific events is masterful. The fear of being Black in 1950’s America is palpable throughout, and while the atrocity that occurred is heard, Chukwu makes the decision not to show it. Two effects of this artistic decision are (1) the disgusting actions of the racists are not glorified and (2) the acts committed become more terrifying because we the audience have to picture it in our own heads. This further drives the emotional chords and heartbreak as by imagining the acts, we in a way are putting ourselves in the shoes of Mamie Mobley. On top of this, Chukwu and cinematographer, Bobby Bukowski, developed two of the most heart wrenching back-to-back scenes I’ve seen this year with Mamie seeing Emmett’s body for the first time and Emmett’s funeral. These two scenes alone put Till in serious award conversations.
Other than the heart wrenching story, the biggest take away from this film are the incredible performances. Jalyn Hall as Emmett immediately captures your heart. He plays Emmett as a fun loving, pure hearted kid to such success, that it makes the tragedy even more painful and palpable to audiences. Although they weren’t in a lot of the movie, Frankie Faison and Whoopi Goldberg were both phenomenal as Emmett’s grandparents. There is one scene in particular that is getting Whoopi Goldberg some Oscar buzz that I heard was wonderful, but I was not prepared for how hard it would be to watch. The star of this film is the one who truly delivers the performance of a lifetime in this: Danielle Deadwyler. Between Michelle Yeoh in EEAAO, Cate Blanchett in Tár (that review coming in a few days), and now Deadwyler, this year’s Best Actress race is a cutthroat category. Deadwyler’s portrayal of Mamie Till-Mobley is filled with anguish, pain, and motherly longing. The amount of emotion that she is able to convey with just a look is jaw dropping, and she single handedly carries Till to the forefront of the movies that I would recommend to anyone.
At a time when America is as divided as ever, movies like Till can often be overlooked due to the political perversion that politicians put on these horrific events to sway one side or another. However, if you love of the art of storytelling and acting and if you have a heart, you will absolutely love this film. It will break you (when the one-two punch of the mortician’s office and the funeral scenes happened, I didn’t stop crying for at least 15 minutes), but if we cannot look at the events of the past and allow them to affect us emotionally, we are doomed to repeat history. Films like Till are special in that it reminds us of the sins of the past, but it also honors and memorializes the beautiful souls of Emmett and Mamie Till-Mobley for filmgoers today and audiences of the future. If you are looking for an award contender next time you head out to the theater (or if the Wakanda Forever (2022) showing you wanted to see is sold out this weekend), please consider seeing this phenomenal film.
Till is rated PG-13 for thematic content involving racism, strong disturbing images and racial slurs.
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