‘Till’ Review: Danielle Deadwyler Gives a Powerhouse Performance in Emotional True Story


The murder of Emmett Till is a landmark event in America’s long history of racism and injustice. His story has been taught in schools across the country, yet there are still groups of people who attempt to bury his story, hiding it from the public. While the country has progressed in some ways since 1955, there have been other areas that have frustratingly stayed the same, which makes Chinonye Chukwu‘s latest feature film, Till, still tragically relevant. It’s infuriating, but maybe not too surprising that it has taken so long for Emmett and Mamie Till’s story to be told in this way, and finally, just mere months after the Emmett Till Antilynching Act was finally passed, 67 years after the egregious act of pure hatred, their story is being told with this large of a platform. Chukwu makes it clear over the course of the film and through the depiction of Mamie Till-Mobley’s (Danielle Deadwyler) resilience and how her grief led to her to activism, that sometimes stories like these are necessary and important to hear.


The film finds Mamie as a single mother to her 14-year-old son Emmett (Jalyn Hall), who both live in Chicago. Since the death of her husband during World War II, Mamie has been insistent on having Emmett by her side at all costs. Her nerves are pushed to the limit when she reluctantly allows Emmett to travel alone to Mississippi to spend time with his relatives, at the insistence of Marnie’s mother (Whoopi Goldberg). Mamie warns her son of how different Mississippi is from their Chicago home, and that his usual upbeat and joyful personality can very easily be taken the wrong way down south. While visiting a shop in Mississippi, Emmett jokes around, and whistles at a white woman (Hayley Bennett). This results in the woman having her husband and his co-workers ruthlessly lynch and murder Emmett in cold blood (the actual act is not seen in the film but is heard, and we are shown the aftermath).

Upon learning of her son’s murder, Mamie is drowning in her own grief. After having her son’s body shipped back to Chicago, she holds a public open-casket funeral, so the whole world can see what it has done to her son. Right before the start of the funeral, she whispers into Emmett’s ear, “You’re not just my boy anymore,” which leads into one of the most emotional moments of the film.

RELATED: ‘Till’ Director Chinonye Chukwu on the Scene that Earned Danielle Deadwyler a Standing Ovation on Set

Till is not an easy watch, nor is it one that most will find themselves revisiting. The emotional beats run high, as expected and as they should, but it’s the way that Chukwu tells this story with the utmost respect and confidence. Chukwu understands that the audience doesn’t want or need to see a recreation of Emmett’s murder in order to have an emotional connection, she is already carrying a massive weight on her shoulders in making the film feel authentic and earnest. She isn’t focused on sugar-coating this true story or shielding the white audience from any sense of discomfort by sliding in a prominent white character to assist Mamie in her turn to activism. Till is not a film that will have you walking out smiling, but instead will have you continuing to think about its history long after the credits roll.

Danielle Deadwyler is nothing short of outstanding in her portrayal of Mamie Till. Chukwu allows Deadwyler to truly take control of the screen with her portrayal, commanding attention in every moment. Deadwyler has appeared in high-profile projects before like last year’s The Harder They Fall and HBO’s Watchmen, but never with a role as prominent as she has in Till. This is a career-defining performance that’ll likely lead her to become one of the most highly sought-after actresses in the business. From her brief moments with Jalyn Hall as Emmett, to her grief when looking upon the lynched corpse of her son, to finally speaking up to the masses, Deadwyler is flawless, never once missing a beat, it’s a role that will deservingly be recognized en masse throughout the upcoming awards season.

In a supporting turn, John Douglas Thompson gives an impactful performance as Moses Wright, Emmett’s great-uncle who Emmett was staying with the night of his murder. One particular scene he shares with Deadwyler is one of the film’s biggest emotional gut punches as Mamie confronts him about why he didn’t shoot Emmett’s kidnappers if he already had a gun in his house, and much of the dramatic heft that is felt is thanks to Thompson’s outstanding delivery. Jalyn Hall isn’t featured too much on-screen after the first act of the film, but the sincerity and innocence of his performance as Emmett Till is heavily felt through the rest of the movie.

Composer Abel Korzeniowski has constructed a score that at times may feel overwhelming but at the same time felt needed, especially in the film’s quieter moments. On its own, it is one of the best scores of the year, and paired with the film, it elevates the film even more.

For those who already know much about the true story, Till might not offer any new information and instead serves as a reminder of such a devastating stain on American history. At the same time, when it comes time to learn about the murder of Emmett Till, and since many might of forgot about learning the story in history class, Till will surely leave a long-lasting impression. For those who have some trepidation about watching the film for emotional reasons, there’s really not much that can be said that will ease the concern outside the murder not being shown, but the audience doesn’t have to see it to feel the pain.

Till will go down as one of the most powerful and important films to hit the screen in 2022, Danielle Deadwyler is unforgettable, and the film has a voice that needs to be heard more. A single movie is not going to stop hate, but that isn’t the intent, this is a film that challenges its audience to open their eyes even more to racial injustice.

Rating: A-

Till will release in select theaters on October 14, before going wide on October 28.

Las Vegas News Magazine

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