Till

Where I Watched it: iTunes

Audio Description Provided By: Deluxe

I did manage to squeeze this in just before the Oscar nominations, because i assumed the voters hadn’t lost their damn minds. i was prepared to be taken over by a film that i had seen so many visceral reactions from some of my favorite YouTube critics. I believe even one holdout managed to squeeze this in about the same time i did. I’m going to say up front, this film doesn’t get an A from me, but that doesn’t mean i don’t recommend it.

Before I talk about anything negative, I have to say that I feel like Danielle Detweiler was the snub of the year. The one person who undeniably deserved the nomination, and didn’t get it. I would double down by saying that I would nominate her over anyone in the category, except perhaps Ana de Armas. I know that’s a weird choice, but what Armas put herself through for this nomination is akin to DiCaprio putting his own health at risk in The Revenant just so he could finally win. I wouldn’t want to send her away, only to see her do something worse. She needs to be told life is good, and she can pass on projects like Blonde moving forward.

But Detweiler carries this film like I’ve heard Fraser carries The Whale. She’s the whole reason to show up. Yes, it’s an Emmett Till movie. Get the fuck over it. In many ways, this is easier to get through than another recent Emmett Till project, Women of The movement. The actual killing is heard from a distance, and very much NOT focused on. There is a long sequence where Detweiler does spend a lot of time caressing the mangled corpse of her son, in one of the mor remarkable moments in the film. I can’t imagine that was an easy scene to shoot, or to know what exactly to say or do. Detweiler couldn’t ask mamie Till, who passed in 2003. She just had to imagine, take the direction, and take an extremely difficult moment and bring you in so we could all feel what she was feeling in that moment.

Danielle Detweiler has so many “Oscar moments”, those really well set up scenes, with some really great lines. There’s one scene where another character is asking her a question, and she just can’t take it anymore, and the exasperated way she shouts “My son is dead!:, alone could have provided her with that 5 second Oscar clip. you feel it. I felt like Danielle couldn’t breathe in that situation, which is likely exactly how Mamie felt.

There’s nothing wrong with the film, except that Till has the unfortunate position for me at least, coming after Women of The Movement. At the time, the limited series gave me a terrific Adrienne Warren performance, and that was all I thought i really needed. But, Detweiler actually manages to go even beyond Warren. It’s just that having that series, which went so in detail, fresh in my memory gave me too much deja vu in watching Till. i found myself trying to figure out who did it better, like I was analyzing YouTube singers doing cover songs. Really, it’s that feeling where the second released biopic doesn’t feel as special as the first. Brian Cox’s Churchill followed Gary Oldman’s Oscar winning turn in Darkest hour, Toby Jones in infamous had to follow Philip Seymour Hoffman’s already Oscar winning turn in Capote. It’s not that the second project is bad, it’s just that you were just here. i even kind of felt the same way about Devotion following Top Gun Maverick this year.

So when i don’t give this an A, it only comes from my personal experiences. I felt like I had “read the book’, even though there was no book to read. Even though the Emmett Till story is one that’s been told before. What does make this project unique is the commanding performance from Danielle Detweiler that deserved a lot more love than it got.

As far as the audio description goes, I wasn’t a fan. I’ve chosen not to list the narrator, because I didn’t get into this to unnecessarily call out narrators when I’m not even sure it’s warranted. I do feel like the audio description was almost relentlessly upbeat, but the director has repeatedly said they wanted black joy to resonate from this film, so maybe that was intended in the narration. it just felt so out of place in certain moments, when Emmet’s life was in peril, or when his mother was crying over his body.

There’s another conversation I tried to have already within my audio description community, about when representation matters, and when narration services should take note of the project, and perhaps the representation should extend into the narration. this is a tight line I’m walking here, because I realize the only way i would know whether or not a narrator was of a certain race would be using outdated and offensive statements like ‘sounds white”. I’ve spoken with consumers of audio description who are also POC, and while we talk around it, they’ve admitted that they can tell when a project featuring a predominantly specific minority cast also features a narrator from that same subset of diversity.

I’m not sure that happens here. Even though I’m fairly certain Till is made for a white audience, because i can’t imagine that black people need to be reminded who Emmett Till was, or many of the themes of racism running through the movie. Black families don’t need to see the scene where Mamie is trying to tell her son how to act around white people in the south. They likely have had that conversation at some point in their own lives. But for an audience not familiar with this culture, who did not grow up with this lack of privilege, there is a lot to glean here. And perhaps, since this is a black story being told to us from all these lovely black creatives, we should invite a black audio description writer and narrator to the table as well. Food for thought.

I can’t come on here and claim that accessibility matters, and demand this industry change to make more films accessible to my community, and to be more inclusive, and to not also acknowledge the importance of representation, and what that looks like in a day and age when a young black man can be savagely beaten by men with badges in Tennessee. It has been a long time since Emmet’s death, and it wasn’t even until last year that the bill Mamie Till worked her whole life on was finally signed, making lynching a federal hate crime. Those men who pulled Emmet from his cousins home that night and threw him in their truck today would have badges. That’s why representation matters. That’s why movies like Till matter. And that’s why the academy and it’s voting body should have given Danielle Detweiler the time of day.

Final Grade: B+

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