A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Reveals how a mother, through her grief, was able to draw national attention to evils of lynching and need for the civil rights movement. Shows how civil rights workers and all Black people in the South put their lives and privacy at risk simply by existing. Explores how individuals raised national consciousness about inequality in the South. Major themes include courage, empathy, integrity, self-control, perseverance.
Positive Role Models
Mamie is caring, brave, loving. She works hard to make sure she can not only pay tribute to her son but let people know how he was killed. She becomes an outspoken activist against lynching and segregation. Her partner, Gene Mobley, is supportive and understanding. As the NAACP field rep, Medgar Evers supports and encourages Mamie. Mamie's Southern family members each take a stand against what happened to Emmett.
This story is about a Black mother's love and courage and a reminder of how the Jim Crow South upheld White supremacy at all costs. Black people -- both individuals and families -- grieve together after the horrific lynching of a child and then the injustice of a trial in which an all-White jury fails to convict the perpetrators. The director/co-writer is a Black woman.
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Violence & Scariness
The bloated, battered dead body of Emmett Till is visible several times. Grieving mothers cry, wail, faint. A White woman points a rifle at her Black customers. Armed White men force their way into a Black family's home, threaten everyone, kidnap Emmett. A young man hears a boy screaming and later sees men holding a body.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
An adult couple kiss and embrace.
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In the Mississippi scenes, there's frequent use of the "N" word by White men and women, including law enforcement, as well as the racial slur "uppity."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Lots of characters smoke cigarettes. Adults drink recreationally (mostly beer) at meals. Teens seem to be holding drinks at an outdoor party.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Till is a biographical drama about Mamie Till Mobley's search for awareness and justice after the horrific lynching of her beloved only son, Emmett (Jalyn Hall), on August 28, 1955, in Mississippi. While the movie doesn't show the actual lynching, it depicts how armed White men forced their way into a Black family's home, kidnapping a 14-year-old boy at gunpoint. Later, Emmett's screams can be heard, and his broken, bloated, battered body is visible in a few harrowing scenes as Mamie (Danielle Deadwyler) identifies his body and displays him in an open casket for public viewing. White people use the "N" word multiple times, both in anger and matter-of-factly, as well as the racist term "uppity" to refer to an educated Black woman. Grieving mothers are shown crying and yelling in despair, and Mamie faints upon hearing the news of Emmett's death. Like many films about racism, hate crimes, and the Jim Crow South, this drama is both powerful and sometimes difficult to watch. Parents who watch with their teens can discuss the movie's historical and biographical elements. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Deadwyler's unforgettable performance carries this powerful story of how a mother's love forced people to see that racism and lack of accountability killed her beloved boy. Directed by Chinonye Chukwu based on a screenplay she co-wrote with Michael Reilly and Keith Beauchamp, Till captures the unease Mamie feels as smiley, outgoing Emmett travels south from Chicago. Mamie's mother, Alma (Goldberg), thinks it's important for Emmett to see where his family comes from, but Mamie testily says that she left the Deep South for a reason. The cinematography captures both the landscape as it changes from Chicago to the South and close-ups of various characters in a way that conveys the mix of emotions everyone is feeling. Emmett (or Bobo, as he's known to his loved ones) is out of his element on vacation, both in regards to his family's cotton-harvesting work and the types of fun to be had in a small, rural town. When the cousins visit the general store one day, Emmett idly takes in the candy for sale and chats with the White woman cashier. Dread slowly builds for viewers who know this history, and there's a brief moment of oppressive silence after Emmett whistles at the pretty young shopkeeper. His face falls as he realizes, belatedly, his error, and his cousins and the other shop regulars look shocked, confused, and frightened. Many viewers will likely stay in a place of discomfort from that point on, even as optimistic Emmett convinces his cousins not to tell their parents about the incident, as it's been a few days since it happened. Little did they know that the worst was yet to come.
Chukwu makes the conscious choice not to focus on the violence of Till's actual lynching. She does show his brutalized body because it's necessary as part of Mamie's story, but the acts of torture and murder remain off camera. Their impact is fully felt, however; this is an intense drama. It's definitely still relevant today: Had he survived his trip to visit his cousins that August, Till would have been 81 years old for the movie's release in 2022. And yet 1955 was also early in the U.S. civil rights movement: There were easily 15 more years of protests, Freedom Rides, and targeted assassinations to come. It's never easy to watch an upsetting story of painful loss, but Till handles the depiction of grief in an empathetic and authentic manner. As Mamie tells her aunt, we owe it to Emmett to bear witness, and this film, this story of a mother's grief and love, does just that.
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