Thankful times have changed — or have they?


Culture Columnist

The time is the summer of 1955 in the recently released film TILL.

And it’s the 1980’s in the new movie ARMAGEDDON TIME.

Each film portrays the sad racial divide in the United States, almost seven decades ago and nearly thirty-five years ago.

TILL is the story of the brutal lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till, a Chicago youth visiting family back in Mississippi. More precisely, it’s about Emmett’s mother – Mabel Till-Mobley and her fight for justice after her young son’s gruesome murder.

ARMAGEDDON TIME, set in New York, portrays the interracial friendship of two 6th graders: the Jewish boy Paul and his best friend, Johnny, the only Black student in the class. Both are “misfits” and their harmless mischief turns tragic – for one of them.

TILL is very well made. Director and producer Chinonye Chukwu has fashioned a highly moving work – with an excellent performance by Danielle Deadwyler (a likely Oscar nominee) as Emmett’s mother. Her decision to have an open-casket funeral for her son – “Let the people see what they did to my boy” – is the emotional and very graphic center of the story.

ARMAGEDDON TIME, while interesting, is too meandering. Director James Gray spends much time tracing Paul’s Jewish family (strong performances from Anne Hathaway, Jeremy Strong and the brilliant Anthony Hopkins). We don’t see much of Johnny’s family – he is in many ways homeless – but we can feel the loneliness, desperation and eventual injustice he suffers.

TILL can be recommended for adults and older teens. ARMAGEDDON TIME, because of much profanity and some drug use, is certainly not for family viewing.

All these years later, Mamie Till’s words still apply: “The murder of my son has shown me that what happens to any of us, anywhere in the world, had better be the business of us all.”

(THE CHOSEN update: Season Three episodes 1 and 2 have had “previews” in local theatres across the US. The entire Season Three will be streaming by the end of 2022 and early 2023.)