August of 1955, at the age of 14, Emmett Till was murdered in Money, Mississippi, for whistling at a white woman.
“TILL” tells the story through his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley’s eyes. We feel her anguish in deciding to send her only son down to the deep south where things were/are so different from Chicago. We see how she would indulge Emmett as he was a little spoiled but was an active 14-year-old who loved to sing and dance. Singing was the only time he wouldn’t stutter. She was afraid to send him down south where he would have to contain himself. She cautioned him to be small. It reminds me of what mothers are saying to their sons now, in 2022, when they leave the house to not cause a scene and telling them to keep their hands in sight if pulled over by the police.
We see how Emmett just can’t become small, it’s against his nature. He whistles at the white woman in the store, and her husband comes to Emmett’s uncle’s house and takes him away. Why didn’t his family stop them from taking Emmett? It’s 1955 Mississippi—they all would have been killed.
We feel Mrs. Till-Mobley’s disbelief when she receives the news her only child has been murdered and how her heartbreak becomes determination when she decides to show what was done to her son to the world. Her bravery as she takes the stand at his killers’ trial, knowing they will not be convicted.
“TILL” is a story of a mother’s love. Director Chinonye Chukwu has given us a chance to view and experience all sides of the story. Danielle Deadwyler embodies Mamie Till-Mobley. She takes on a roller coaster of emotions, and we are with her for each and every one. Jayln Hall’s portrayal of Emmett Till is full of life and mischief and love. Whoopi Goldberg plays Emmett’s grandmother, Alma Carthan. There is a short scene, after Emmett has been murdered, between she and Mamie that is so moving it took my breath away.
“TILL” is not all about sadness. There is much joy in seeing how Black people in neighborhoods dressed, and partied, and related to one another as a community. There isn’t any graphic violence in this film, and music is an important character throughout. If you wonder if you can take your child, the answer is yes; however, I suggest the age be 11 and above. I also suggest a discussion afterward. In fact, if you know of someone who may have lived during that time, have a conversation with them to hear firsthand how it was.
Many of us know the Emmett Till story, some of us have had the honor of meeting Mrs. Till-Mobley but never really knew the story as the mother of Emmett Till. The woman who had the strength to show the world what racism really looked like.
I give “TILL” 4 and half winks out of 5.
Until next time, keep your EYE to the sky!