CLEMENCY

Cert 15 Stars 4

Two lonely lives run parallel but apart in this tough uncompromising death row drama, which examines the physical and spiritual effects capital punishment inflicts on all those involved.

Veteran African American actress Alfre Woodard delivers a superb and complex performance as Warden Bernadine Williams and is worthy of adding to the Oscar nomination she received in 1984 for the romantic drama, Cross Creek.

She exudes authority and humanity as she fulfils her duties with a steely determination, her professional pride in maintaining rules and order has become an emotional shield, which has caused long-standing fault lines in her marriage.

Aldis Hodge is equally great as her prisoner Anthony Woods, who faces the death sentence for killing a police officer fifteen years previously.

Though the case which condemned him is weak, he’s exhausted his appeals and his only hope of reprieve lies with the State Governor who has the power to grant clemency and cancel the execution at the very last moment.

It’s a tremendous physical performance by Woods, an essay in trauma, mute articulacy and self-punishment, and at times very hard to watch.

I’m sure it’s no coincidence this is being released nearly 65 years to the day Ruth Ellis became the last woman in the UK was hung, and where you stand on the hugely divisive issue of capital punishment may determine how you react to the story, however what’s not up for debate is the quality and strength of the filmmaking involved.

There are terrific performances across the board, the economic camerawork is full of purpose, and the lighting team adds immeasurably to the suitably sombre mood,

For her efforts Nigerian-American writer and director Chinonye Chukwu became the first black woman to win the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at Robert Redford’s prestigious Sundance Film Festival.

Her success springs from her willingness to show the barbaric nature of the process and leaves us in no doubt of her opinion of state sanctioned killing.

 

+++++++++

 

Two lonely lives run in parallel in this tough uncompromising startlingly harrowing death row drama full of despair but also humanity, anchored by a pair of terrific performances which barely share any screen time.

written and directed by Chinonye Chukwu Nigerian-American film director is the first black woman to win the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at Robert Redford’s prestigious Sundance Film Festival

Not a Black Lives Matter film, but a hard hitting condemnation of the injustices of capital punishment and the pain and suffering it inflicts on those whose job it is to carry out, so where you stand on that political issue will determine how you react to the film.

However what’s not up for debate is the quality and strength of the filmmaking. There’s no need for cinematic bells and whistles when the craftsmanship is this rich in quality.

It’s an impeccably observed, with an absence of macho posturing, lots of resignation from prisoners and guards alike, and sympathetic to all sides.

Bernadine  a prison guard?  must confront the psychological and emotional demons her job creates, ultimately connecting her to the man she is sanctioned to kill.

superb Stand out performance by veteran African American actress Alfre Woodard as Warden Bernadine Williams, full of conflicting

who’s performance is worthy of adding to the Oscar nomination she received in 1984 for the romantic drama, Cross Creek.

authority, gravitas, dignity, humanity, disguising how appalling she finds her duties with a steely, protective of her staff, and very conscious of her duty of care to her inmates,

the importance she places on rules and order in her prison are echoed in the rigid manner with which she marshals her private life, and  her professional pride is a protective emotional shield.

noisy crowds of protestors outside the prison demanding an end to the death penalty

camerawork is controlled, economical in movement and purposeful, moving with economy, lighting creates a strong foreboding, suitably sombre mood, full of dark shadows.

political role as well as an administrative one, must deal with media, lawyers, victims families, as well as her superiors

home life is not perfect and begins to re-evaluate her position

Focus on faces so we experience the fear of the condemned men and the distaste and grim professionalism of the paramedics, terrified desperate prayers of the condemned,

it shows the process for being as barbaric as it is, the leather straps, poison injections, the painful spasms and lingering death and the shock and horror of the watching relatives.

Trauma is every where, on all sides

portrait of late middle-age, with people around her retiring, or younger than her being promoted

Wendell Pierce as Jonathan Williams as her partner struggling with her insomnia, and drinking.

Aldis Hodge as Anthony Woods, who faces death for killing a police officer fifteen years previously, and best ope of reprieve is an appeal to grant clemency. It’s a tremendous physical performance, an essay full of trauma, and mute articulacy and self-punishment, at times very hard to watch. The case which condemned him is weak. and the Governor can grant clemency and cancel execution at the very last moment, a fragile hope

Richard Schiff is a desperately weary presence as his lawyer Marty Lumetta, whose career failures means this is his last case.

Lives run in tandem and parallel as both experience abandonment from those close to them them

 

Danielle Brooks as Evette

LaMonica Garrett as Logan Cartwright