"Fighting for Justice"


What You Need To Know:

Set in 1955, TILL is based on a true story. Emmett Till’s mother, Mamie, has misgivings about Emmett traveling to Mississippi in August 1955 with Emmett’s uncle, a part-time preacher, to visit Emmett’s cousins. Emmett is a gregarious, outgoing 14-year-old and a natty dresser. Mamie repeatedly warns Emmett about how to act in front of white people in Mississippi. However, Emmett makes the mistake of complimenting a white woman and whistling at her. The woman’s husband and half-brother kidnap Emmett at gunpoint, and his body shows up dead in the local river. Mamie heroically seeks justice for her son.

TILL is a bit slow and deliberate at times. This partially undercuts the story’s emotional moments. However, the movie tells a heartbreaking story of violent racial hatred and one woman’s heroic courage. The main cast does an excellent job, especially the actors playing Emmett and his mother. TILL has a strong moral worldview about fighting for justice, with some positive, overt Christian content. However, the movie has brief foul language and whitewashes the character of Emmett’s father, who died in World War II.


(BBB, CC, RH, L, VV, S, D, M):

Dominant Worldview and Other Worldview Content/Elements:
Very strong moral worldview about fighting for justice and fighting against racism with some overt Christian content that includes references to God, prayer and the hymn “It Is Well with My Soul” is sung at a church funeral, mitigated slightly by some false revisionist history that implies a crime victim’s father is an upstanding citizen and courageous war hero (this is mostly a case of omission rather than commission)

Foul Language:
Four obscenities obscenities, one GD profanity, three light profanities, and white people use the “n” word several times

Strong intense violence includes two white men kidnap a young black teenager at gunpoint in the middle of the night and drive away with him, some gruesome images of the boy’s badly beaten and mutilated and bloated dead body and face

White woman testifies that the black teenager grabbed her hand and tried to put his arm around her waist (thus implying a light attempted sexual assault), woman grabs a gun and points it at boy and his cousins after boy whistles at her

No nudity

Alcohol Use:
No alcohol use

Smoking and/or Drug Use and Abuse:
Some smoking but no drugs; and,

Miscellaneous Immorality:
Racism, some possible or likely lying, and some people try to exploit a racist murder for political ends.

More Detail:

Set in 1955, TILL is based on the true story of a black mother in Chicago who tries to expose and avenge the racism behind her son, Emmett Till’s, brutal murder in Mississippi while Emmett was down there visiting relatives. Though it’s a little slow at times, TILL depicts a heartbreaking story of violent racial hatred, with excellent performances, especially by the actors playing Emmett and his mother, but the movie whitewashes the relationship between Emmett’s mother and father, who died during World War II after the mother divorced him for adultery and for almost choking her to death.

The movie opens with Emmett Till’s mother, Mamie, having misgivings about Emmett traveling to Money, Miss. in August 1955 with Emmett’s uncle, a part-time preacher named Mose Wright, to visit Emmett’s cousins. Emmett is a gregarious, outgoing 14-year-old and a natty dresser. Mamie repeatedly warns Emmett about how to act in front of the white people in Mississippi, but Emmett kind of dismisses her warnings, assuring her he’ll be alright.

One day, Emmett and his cousins visit a small country store run by a white man and his wife. While his cousins are chatting, loitering or playing checkers outside, Emmett compliments the wife about her looks inside the store and then whistles at her when she steps outside to follow him. The woman goes to grab a gun and the cousins, Emmett and an older man playing checkers hurriedly drive away.

Four nights later, the woman’s husband and his half-brother, accompanied by two black men who worked for them, visit the house of Emmett’s uncle, Mose, and kidnap Emmett at gunpoint. An eyewitness walking near the husband’s barn later hears someone being beaten.

Emmett’s mother, Mamie, hears about the kidnapping the next day. She finds out that Emmett hasn’t returned to the uncle’s house. So, she contacts the local NAACP to help her get the authorities in Mississippi to look for Emmett. Two days later, Emmett’s bloated and beaten body is found in the local river. His head is also badly mutilated, with evidence of a gunshot above the right ear.

Mamie has Emmett’s body shipped back immediately to Chicago, where she and her fiancé identify the body. To generate national outrage for her son’s brutal murder, and to prove to people how badly the slaying really was, Mamie decides to hold an open-casket funeral and invites the press. She then agrees to testify at the trial of the two men accused of the murder, the store owner and his half-brother. The uncle also agrees to testify at the trial, to identify the two men who kidnapped Emmett.

However, with an all-white, all-male jury, will the two men be brought to justice?

TILL is a bit slow and deliberate at times. This undercuts some of the inherent emotion out of its story. Even so, the movie tells a heartbreaking story of violent racial hatred and the heroic courage of one woman. The main cast does an excellent job, especially Jalyn Hall as Emmett and Danielle Deadwyler as Emmett’s mother, Mamie.

Of course, it’s an outrageous evil that Emmett Till was brutally murdered. [SPOILERS FOLLOW] It’s also outrageous that the jury acquitted the two murderers, who later confessed their crime in a magazine article, for which they were paid.

TILL has a strong moral worldview about fighting for justice, with some positive, overt Christian content. At Emmett’s funeral, for example, the preacher and the choir sing, “It Is Well with My Soul.” The movie also contains other positive references to God and to prayer.

Finally, the movie is fairly accurate in relating the main story of Emmett’s murder and its aftermath. However, it does contain some revisionist history. For example, the movie mentions that Emmett’s father, Louis Till, died in Europe during World War II. However, the father wasn’t exactly a hero. First of all, Emmett’s mother, Mamie, left the husband when she caught him cheating on her. Then, after she left him, Louis tried to choke her to death. Mamie soon filed a restraining order on him, but he kept violating the order. So, a judge gave Louis an ultimatum – either go to prison or join the army. In 1945, Louis was convicted and executed, along with another man, for murdering an Italian woman and raping two others. The Army, however, never told Mamie and the family about this; they only reported that Luis had been killed for “willful misconduct.” After the acquittal of Emmett’s killers, though, Democrat Senator John Eastland, a famous segregationist, illegally forced the Army to release Louis Till’s file. As a result, the acquittal of the killers found new support among the public. For example, the belief that Emmett was a sexual predator just like his father gained credence among some people, especially those who believed the story of the killer’s wife, who testified at her husband’s trial that Emmett actually accosted her in the country store when no one was around.

The revelation of the father’s Army record occurred after the trial, so it’s hard to blame this movie for neglecting to tell this story. This is especially true since, in the last 10 years, some people have started to question the Army’s conviction of Emmett’s father and the testimony against him in that case. However, by not exposing the troubled relationship between Emmett’s father and mother, including the father’s infidelity, the filmmakers behind TILL whitewash the father’s life and falsely add to the movie’s implication that he was an upstanding citizen and courageous war hero.

In light of this issue, and the gruesome images of Emmett’s corpse in TILL, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution for older children and other viewers. TILL also contains brief foul language and some racial epithets.

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