‘Women of the Movement’ hits where it hurts

(News4usonline) – ABC’s “Women of the Movement,” is a noteworthy program for any individual who is unfamiliar with the story of the tragic and heinous murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till (played by Cedric Joe) in Jim Crow Mississippi in 1955. The killing of Till would ignite the rise of the Civil Rights Movement.

Although the show is an accurate depiction of the events that lead to Emmett’s demise, what seems to be missing is a thorough and deep retrospective into the psyche of the women that the title blatantly uses to market the miniseries.

Mamie Till-Mobley (played by Adrienne Warren) suffers from the traumatic loss of young Emmett while he is away from her care, a fear that inhabits most parents. However, when that fear becomes reality, Till-Mobley goes on a crusade to expose the killing of her son.

WOMEN OF THE MOVEMENT – “The Last Word” – After the verdict is reached and the story becomes international news, a movement begins – and Mamie Till-Mobley fights to defend Emmett’s legacy. The season finale of “Women of the Movement.” (ABC/James Van Evers) TONYA PINKINS, ADRIENNE WARREN

And she does it by doing anything and everything within her disposal to see that come to fruition, including opening her son’s casket to the public so that the public may see the terrifying scars of what was left of Emmett.

By choosing to take her son’s murder public instead of hiding in a corner somewhere, Till-Mobley unknowingly spark the beginning of a movement that would champion the afflicted, downtrodden and those who had been marginalized by society.

When Till-Mobley decides to have an open casket wake and funeral for people to witness her son’s mutilated body (allegedly) at the hands of Roy Bryant (Carter Jenkin) and J.W. Milam (Chris Coy), the narrative shifted around the case from being a local matter to national news.

Warren and Joe bring a sense of realism into their respective roles in the series, portraying the mother and son with the natural chemistry that gives the audience the essential believability of their relationship that becomes a crucial aspect of the storytelling.

It is because of this excellent work the storytelling lends to Emmett’s horrific death and Till-Mobley’s reactions with more genuine authenticity.

Joe plays the wide-eyed teenager Emmett with charming enthusiasm. Joe’s talent brings to life that of a young man with real promise to coordinate a pleasant life with his family and mother, making the dramatic circumstances at the end all too bitter and dejecting.

WOMEN OF THE MOVEMENT – “The Last Word” – After the verdict is reached and the story becomes international news, a movement begins – and Mamie Till-Mobley fights to defend Emmett’s legacy. The season finale of “Women of the Movement.” (ABC/James Van Evers) LESLIE SILVA, MILES FOWLER, JASON TURNER, TONGAYI CHIRISA

The warmth that comes from Joe’s replication of Emmett gives the first two episodes its most emotional impact of the entire series, especially when the camera is allowed to showcase the brutal aftermath of Emmett’s disfigured features from his bigoted attackers.

The TV-MA rating is a welcoming decision from ABC that allows its writers and directors the chance to tell its narrative as historically accurate as possible. What the series also highlights is the visible contempt seen coming from the white citizens throughout the small towns of Mississippi.

The casual cadence of these white citizens in saying racial slurs in casual conversation reflects the thought process during that time where blatant racism was a way of life.

But the show does not push the boundaries of its adult rating any further, keeping the miniseries relatively safe for families to watch or high school history classes to present to their students in future courses.

Warren gives a graceful and heartbreaking performance by embodying the essence and the spirit of Till-Mobley, who becomes immersed with grief, regret and sorrow after Emmett’s passing. Warren’s connection with the audience is heartfelt and illustrated in the show’s opening moments as a young Till-Mobley gives birth to Emmett.

 Her reaction to Emmett’s polio diagnosis provides a window of her compassion for others. Nevertheless, it feels that the showrunners could have spent more time on broadening the understanding of Till-Mobley’s anger and plight.

WOMEN OF THE MOVEMENT – “The Last Word” – After the verdict is reached and the story becomes international news, a movement begins – and Mamie Till-Mobley fights to defend Emmett’s legacy. The season finale of “Women of the Movement.” (ABC/James Van Evers) ADRIENNE WARREN, JULIA MCDERMOTT

Warren does a beautiful job encompassing the raw emotion needed to elevate her character for the miniseries, but at times, the show feels more compelled to focus on her male counterparts, including Chris Butler as Rayfield Mooty and Alex Desert as Dr. Howard rather than the courage of Till-Mobley.  

This oversight is the glaring issue with the series. What we see is that the established lead of the show and literal mother of the Civil Rights Movement did not receive the full development gamut as we are still left to wonder still about just who Till-Mobley was.

Instead of taking the time to fixate on the internal struggles of losing a family member along with the weight and the feeling of obligation to use the incident to expose racial discrimination, the show falters to feeding quick exploits that services the narrative only.

Warren feels somewhat underutilized but makes the most of the scenes that she has been given by demonstrating her incredible ability to fight the urge to regress and fight through quiet expressions and a calm demeanor.

There is a lot more to Till-Mobley, who not only fought for her son but for a nation of people who felt disparaged for years. Unfortunately, we may never get to see it that side.

The series overall is adequately made and depicts the accounts of Emmett in life and in death and trial with historical accuracy. 

The story is an important explanation about the roots of the uprising that shifted the social dynamic and changed the American cultural landscape as people mourned the death of Till-Mobley’s son together.

The direction is appropriate but leaves a lot in the inspired department. What could have been a more meaningful dramatic piece about the deep-seated angst of a mourning mother ends up being a standard courtroom procedural affair?

This exceptional history lesson has good intent but could have gone deeper into examining the racial trauma Black Americans have had to endure then and now.

Featured Image: WOMEN OF THE MOVEMENT – “The Last Word” – After the verdict is reached and the story becomes international news, a movement begins – and Mamie Till-Mobley fights to defend Emmett’s legacy. The season finale of “Women of the Movement.” (ABC/James Van Evers)
ADRIENNE WARREN