Danielle Deadwyler (left) as Mamie Till Mobley and Jalyn Hall (right) as Emmett Till in “Till,” directed by Chinonye Chukwu, released by Orion Pictures.
(“Till” trailer courtesy of MGM)
Films about the plight of African-Americans, from slavery to Jim Crow, do not always sit well with African-American audiences.
After a hard day or week at work, when African-Americans might deal with racism in the workforce, watching a movie about more racism becomes a hard sell for many.
But with book bans and the termination of many educators in the name of critical race theory, movies like “Till” become more necessary so that the true history of this country will remain in the consciousness and in the public discourse.
With that said, “Till” is a powerful and much-needed film.
However, “Till” will still be difficult to take even for those who label themselves experts on the heartbreaking story of Emmett Till and African-American history in general.
There is something about the bond of a mother and her only son, especially for a single mother like Mamie Till (Danielle Deadwyler, “Tyler Perry’s The Haves and the Have Nots”).
Although Mamie has a life outside of her son with her close bond with her mother Alma Carthan (Whoopi Goldberg, “Ghosts of Mississippi”) and her boyfriend Gene Mobley (Sean Patrick Thomas, “The Tragedy of Macbeth”), joy is truly felt when Mamie hangs out alone with Bo-Bo, as relatives call Emmett (Jalyn Hall).
Mamie and Bo dig the same music.
They enjoy shopping together.
And they enjoy spending time with their relatives from Down South.
So, when 14-year-old Emmett prepares to visit his relatives in Money, Miss., Mamie is apprehensive.
However, Mamie knows that eventually she is going to have to let her son grow up and let go of her protectiveness so that he can become a man.
More importantly, Alma knows that it is important that young Emmett knows where he and his family come from before they made the great migration to Chicago.
Unfortunately, Chicago and Money, Miss. might as well be on different planets let alone in different states because they are worlds apart when it comes to sophistication and race relations.
Although racism and discrimination obviously exist up north, the hatred that exists in southern states like Mississippi can result in instant death for any African-American that does not know their so-called place.
In the first half of the 20th century, southern African-Americans had to remain subservient, avoid looking the White man in the eyes, step off the sidewalks when the White man approached, and never, ever, ever, ever disrespect a White woman.
However, disrespecting a White woman did not mean sexually assaulting her or cursing her out.
Disrespecting a White woman could mean just looking at her or speaking to her, even if the “offending” party was just an innocent child.
And although Emmett’s elders have warned him a million times about the differences for African-Americans in the south as opposed to the north, for a playful child those warnings might not register like they would for someone more aware of what is happening in the world outside of the “Windy City.”
As a result, when Emmett speaks to and whistles at Carolyn Bryant (Haley Bennett, “Swallow”), all hell breaks loose in the small town of Money, Miss.
Anyone who knows American history, before it gets watered down to not offend racist White people, knows what happened to the young 14-year-old boy from Chicago.
Those that know American history know what his mother did that helped galvanize the Civil Rights Movement once those from the African-American press began publishing stories in the Chicago Defender and Jet magazine.
Those that know history know that not everyone responsible for Till’s fate is dead.
Someone very responsible for Till’s fate is still living and breathing, never facing punishment for his tragic fate.
Those that cover current events know that events like this still happen to African-Americans in the 21st century.
And those people that follow current events know that it took from 1955 to 2021 for the American Congress and the White House to deliver on a promise it made after Till’s tragic trip to Money, Miss.
In “Till,” Hall is probably the perfect young actor to play the civil rights martyr.
However, Hall had big shoes to fill in this true story because many people, outside of Till’s cousins who are still alive, do not know much about Till’s personality.
Hall favors Till.
And some of the still pictures in “Till” capture the iconic images of young Till in Chicago like the headshot with a fedora, the picture of him with his mother and the picture of him leaning on the family’s television.
Till was always suited and booted and always looking smooth in still images.
But behind the fly suits and hats, always lied a sly and devious smile common amongst youngsters.
As a result, Hall plays Till in a playful and youthful way.
One can believe that at 14 years old, he was a prankster who had begun to holler at the young ladies.
Being from Chicago and spending the summer in Mississippi, Till probably thought he was a city slickster as opposed to his more rural peers in Mississippi.
Unfortunately for African-American males, Jim Crow placed certain women on a pedestal that they never deserved because pedestals are reserved for those society should hold in high regard, not those who could do that to a young child.
The film “Till” does a marvelous job injecting some family history into the tragic story of the youngster from Chicago.
Moviegoers might learn more about Till’s father, grandparents and cousins from the Magnolia State.
But the most important lesson that “Till” teaches is that America’s history is not as glorious and beautiful as some conservative politicians want to make it to protect the feelings of people who wreaked so much havoc on other people just because of the color of their skin.