Chinonye Chukwu’s sophomore feature is dogged by the same questions facing historical dramas: why dramatise a known story, and why tell it now? Till faces a heightened hurdle by recounting the circumstances and legal battle around a high-profile lynching case, when 14-year-old Emmett Till was murdered by (at least) two white men after (allegedly) whistling at a white shopkeeper. It is a story familiar from classroom texts on American racism that intrinsically centres Black trauma; its existence feels more of an education piece than an exploration of systemic hate. 

The film coalesces around Mamie Till-Mobley (Danielle Deadwyler), portraying her life before her son’s death and during her fight for justice afterwards. Chukwu is a sensitive director with a keen eye centralising her talented cast’s faces. This beautifully serves Deadwyler’s performance, which captures multiple and contradictory reactions and counter-reactions as she navigates a legal system bent against her. 

The creative team resolved to imply violence, yet the decision to re-create Emmett Till’s brutalised body may be controversial. It, however, echoes Till-Mobley’s choice to let journalists photograph her murdered son and hold an open-casket funeral. The real images exist elsewhere, but building them into the cinematic frame allows the impact to be fully felt in this world. 

While the script falls into introductory cliches and the violin-based score becomes predictable, Till succeeds as a historical drama because there is no sense of closure or completion. The last frames skillfully evoke immutable, unconquerable nature of Till-Mobely’s grief and loss, which dominates the end cards’ solemn proclamations that the murderers and accomplices lived (and live) unpunished. The Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act went into effect in March 2022. It is clear why the film happens now.

Till remembers a too-recent crime with elegance, respect, and unflinching honesty. Deadwyler’s performance is one of the year’s finest.



CAST: Danielle Deadwyler, Jalyn Hall, Whoopi Goldberg, Frankie Faison, Haley Bennett, Jayme Lawson, Tosin Cole

DIRECTOR: Chinonye Chukwu

WRITERS: Chinonye Chukwu, Michael Reilly, Keith Beauchamp

SYNOPSIS: A beautifully shot and acted biopic following Mamie Till-Mobley’s quest for justice for her son Emmett Till following his lynching in 1955 Mississippi.