Why do they hate us so much? Is what looped in my mind as I came out of the Just Mercy screening.
The UK is currently experiencing racial turmoil with Brexit exposing its racist undertones, where its politicians and its public fuelling / being manipulated to display racial hate at every turn. With the lopsided vicious attacks on Meghan Markle, and yet again one of its biggest award institutions proving yet again, no matter what you do, if you’re not telling a story about white people, it’s unlikely you’ll get its attention.
I’m tired actually.
However, how dare I speak of fatigue when across the water in America Bryan Stevenson is an African American man fighting tirelessly to this day on behalf of people without a voice. Or more importantly, who don’t have the social status, income and in most cases the skin colour that affords them a fair chance at life. At justice. Work so important that a film has been made in Stevenson’s honour, based on his memoir, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.
Just Mercy (the film) is set around one of Stevenson’s first cases, Walter McMillian who was imprisoned and sentenced to die in 1987 for the murder of an 18-year-old girl, despite evidence proving his innocence. Stevenson at the time who had recently graduated from Harvard Law school took it upon himself to work on getting McMillian’s charges overturned, amongst other prisoners. Facing racism, and push back in the small Alabama town, Stevenson persevered to success 6 years later.
With Michael B. Jordan’s emotionally wrought performance as Bryan Stevenson, Jamie Foxx’s righteous portrayal of the late Walter McMillian, an unexpected heartbreaking turn from Rob Morgan as fellow death row inmate Herbert Richardson and a spot-on imitation of Ralph Myers from Tim Black Nelson, Just Mercy is an almost perfect honouring of the work Stevenson has done. He should be proud that B. Jordan’s Outliers production company, alongside Charles D. King’s Macro and others, brought this story to life. The family of Walter McMillian I’m sure felt proud that Foxx did Mr. McMillian such justice.
It’s not that Just Mercy breaks the biopic rule book. As with typical based on true life law narratives, where the result is already known, there’s not much by way of surprise that can happen. So we have to rely on the performances and visuals. The combination of Hawaiian director, Destin Daniel Cretton’s… directing and the talented cast (the whole cast) gives us a film that will break your heart, make you angry – that thing I said about, wondering why we’re so hated. When you hear of stories like this, the neverending stories like this, and the great lengths some people go to oppress us, it’s soul-destroying. But, but… when you consider Stevenson’s journey and dedication, you will leave with a bit of hope and inspiration in our people at least.
Just Mercy comes to UK cinemas Friday 17th January 2020. You have to go and see it.
Just Mercy has 6 NAACP Image Award nominations. We celebrate ourselves!