A powerhouse lead performance, an important topic of conversation and strong direction certainly make Till worth a viewing.
WRITTEN BY JACK RANSOM / JANUARY 10, 2023
Based on the shocking and important true story. Till is set in 1955, after Emmett Till (Jalyn Hall) is murdered in a brutal lynching, his mother (Danielle Deadwyler) vows to expose the racism behind the attack while working to have those involved brought to justice.
I had minuscule knowledge of Emmett Till’s case prior to this film, so I was hopeful that this historical biography would provide both an educational experience as well as delivering as an engrossing drama. Whilst for the majority of its duration the latter of my previous sentence ringed true, an overlong runtime leading to some pacing issues in the second and third act does hold the film back. That being said, a powerhouse lead performance, an important topic of conversation and strong direction certainly make this worth a viewing.
The screenplay does a effective job of emphasising the playful, loving and snappy relationship that Emmitt and his mother shared, which makes the cruel, heartbreaking and shocking circumstances of his death even more impactful. The film is easily at its strongest when centring around the family relationships and their reaction to the tragedy, as well as the fallout surrounding it. Though engaging (and with a superbly performed extended dialogue sequence from Deadwyler), the finale trial is a little underwhelming and simplistic in its execution. The film can also teeter into the melodramatic with a couple of music choices and slow-motion usage.
Stylistically the film is subtle yet effective in its filmmaking techniques. The lingering close-up’s capture every flicker of emotion, the way director Chinonye Chukwu decides to frame and present Emmet’s body and where the more harsher and disturbing moments are presented to not seem gratuitous, but to leave enough for the viewer to wince. As mentioned the score can get a little intrusive, but there is no denying the emotional impact it can bolster at times.
Danielle Deadwyler has set a high bar for standout performances this year. She is absolutely locked into the material and you hold onto every cry of pain, sharp bite of anger and lingering worry when her son leaves her to stay with his relatives. Jalyn Hall is a boundlessly energetic and good spirited presence as Emmett, Haley Bennett is a truly icy, utterly cruel presence as the quiet Carolyn Bryant. John Douglas Thompson and Whoopi Goldberg also deserve a mention for their supporting roles.
Till is a very solid historical biopic drama. The performances are fantastic, the story is as interesting as it is tragic, the direction is strong and the pre-end credit facts will have you stunned. It can feel very familiar and simplistic in its execution (though that is to expected) and there are some pacing issues throughout the second and third act. However, this is a worthy start to new releases this year.