By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
I know it's still early, and Awards Season is just getting underway, but I have yet to see a more dynamic and jarring performance like the one Danielle Deadwyler
delivers in the riveting new drama "Till."
We've seen glimpses of Deadwyler's talent in movies such as "The Harder they Fall," "The Devil to Pay" and "Gifted," but what she brings to "Till" is masterful.
Directed and co-written by Chinonye Chukwu
("Clemency" and "A Long Walk"), "Till" is based on true events that took place 67 years ago. Yet, it is as vital and relevant today than ever, as racial hatred and division threaten to rip our country apart.
In "Till," Deadwyler stars as Mamie Till-Mobley an Air Force office worker turned educator and activist from Chicago. Mamie’s first husband was a soldier killed during World War II.
In 1955, along with her fiancé, Gene Mobley (Sean Patrick Thomas, TV's "Reasonable Doubt") she fiercely fought for justice after her 14-year-old son, Emmett (played wonderfully by Jalyn Hall, TV's "All-American")-- who was visiting his cousins in Money, Miss.-- was murdered by white supremacists for whistling at a white woman named Carolyn Bryant (Haley Bennett, "Cyrano" and "Hillbilly Elegy").
This isn't an easy movie to watch, but with the deft directing of Chukwu, Emmett Till’s brutal beating is heard, but not seen on screen. However, it still has a palpable, bone-chilling effect. There are other scenes that will rile up emotions as well.
In every way Emmett Till was a smart, sharp, and well-behaved kid who was loved by his mother Mamie (Deadwyler) and grandmother, Alma Carthan, (Whoopi Goldberg, "Sister Act 3: Kicking the Habit").
Before leaving on his trip, Mamie explained to Emmett that Mississippi was a lot different than Chicago. She even warned him about how to talk and behave around white people when there.
Mamie was never completely comfortable with Emmett going away for so long, but Alma (Goldberg) suggested the boy needed to see his cousins. Of course, after they learn that Emmett is killed by two white men who burst into his uncle’s house (John Douglas Thompson, TV's "The Guilded Age") and abducted Emmett, Alma and Mamie are unable to shake the grief. Mamie feels especially guilty for Emmett's death.
"Till" soars even higher when Mamie and her father (Frankie Faison, TV's "The Rookie") join forces with the media and Civil Rights icons, Medgar Evers (Tosin Cole, TV's "61st Street"), his wife Myrlie ( Jayme Lawson, "The Woman King"), Rayfield Mooty (Kevin Carroll, TV's "The Walking Dead" and "Let The Right One In"), and Dr. T.R.M. Howard (Roger Guenveur Smith, TV's "All Rise") to bring national attention to Till's murder. She insists on having an open casket at his funeral. Mamie wanted the entire world to see how horrific Till looked when he was retrieved from the Tallahatchie River. He was bloated, shot in the head, and disfigured almost beyond recognition.
Still, Mamie soon realized that all her anguish and heartfelt courtroom testimony would never resonate with the all-white jury. They weren't about to render justice for her Black boy. The men accused of murdering Till--JW Milam and his half-brother Roy Bryant--were acquitted of all charges.
That injustice not only emboldened Mamie and made her an icon and activist in the Jim Crow South, but it also galvanized and united the NAACP and Civil Rights movement throughout the country.
In addition to Deadwyler's star turn, the entire cast of "Till" is stellar. Jalyn Hall, (Till) who is perhaps best known for his portrayal of Daniel Ezra/Spencer James' little brother Dillion on the TV show "All-American," is in the movie during the first act then shown mostly through flashbacks, but he is still commanding and lights up the screen.
"Till" is a thoughtful and richly layered history lesson. When you consider that the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act was signed into law by President Biden just this year (March 29, 2022), "Till" is an important movie and a reminder of how far we've come as a country, but still have a long way to go.
Be sure to catch my N2Entertainment.net movie talk segment on the Kitty O'Neal Show Fridays at my new times of 5:17 p.m. and 6:47 p.m. on radio station KFBK 93.1 FM and 1530 AM.
Look At This Trailer For "TILL"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), The American Film Institute (AFI), and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.