Arts, Movies

‘Till’ Offers Painstaking Memorial of Love and Dignity in Fight for Justice

The U.S House of Representatives passed the Emmett Till Antilynching Act on March 29, 67 years after the murder of the 14-year-old Emmett Till. 

Till, a film released in theaters on Oct. 14, retells the story of Mamie Till-Mobley (Danielle Deadwyler) pursuing justice for her son Emmett, who was brutally lynched after he was accused of whistling at a white woman in Mississippi in August 1955.

It is never easy to retell such a heavy, heartbreaking story, but Till is a painstaking memorial of both the loving work of Till-Mobley and the dignity of her son. 

Director Chinonye Chukwu focused the first third of the movie on a loving mother-and-son relationship. The happiness between the two reflects the life that a young and passionate teenager could have continued if not for the murderous actions of white supremacists. 

Till recreates the scene of Emmett’s open-casket funeral. Till-Mobley made a famous decision to hold an open-casket funeral because she said she “wanted the world to see what they did to [her] baby.” 

The decision to let the world see this brutality sparked a movement for justice.  Jet magazine printed photos of Till’s mutilated body in his casket on its pages, shining a light on the cruelty of racism for many who had never previously acknowledged it.

As the camera zooms in on Till-Mobley touching Emmett’s corpse from his feet to his brutalized face, Chukwu invites viewers to undertake the weight of his death and bear witness to the immense consequences of racial hatred and violence. 

Deadwyler’s acting captures a mother’s vulnerability as well as her persistence in fighting for justice. Her trembling lips and explosive cries bring the audience into a whirlwind of emotions and allow viewers to experience a mother’s grief and helplessness when she faces the catastrophic loss of her son. 

Deadwyler not only captures a mother’s aching reaction to the unimaginable loss of her child, but audiences can observe the transformation of a modest mother into a determined public figure who dedicates herself to be an advocate for social justice.

Till-Mobley’s testimony in front of a massive white crowd at the murder trial demonstrates her newfound passion for social justice. With a firmness in her voice, she delivers a powerful monologue that shows a mother’s determination to reach justice.

Till-Mobley’s legacy remains influential to this day, but the film does not further elaborate on her efforts as a prominent American educator and activist in the civil rights movement. 

After the death of her son, Till-Mobley continued to work with the NAACP, speaking with people across the country and advocating for civil rights. 

Understanding that it is difficult to fully cover the life of Till-Mobley in just over two hours, ending the film abruptly may be the only approach that Chukwu could have taken. But the entire scope of Till-Mobley’s activism deserves to be under the spotlight.

November 13, 2022