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Just Mercy

What would it be like, to be arrested, imprisoned, sentenced to death and to spend years, perhaps decades waiting for “the date?” The film bears witness to the lawlessness of the American criminal justice system.

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What would it be like, to be arrested, imprisoned, sentenced to death and to spend years, perhaps decades waiting for “the date?” What if you just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, or maybe even nowhere near the crime scene?

Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx) is on death row for a murder he did not commit. Before he places his life in the hands of young lawyer Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan) he is resigned to being “guilty from the day you’re born” as a black man in the South.

JUST MERCY is based on Bryan Stevenson’s memoir, also called Just Mercy, the account of his experience in Alabama providing legal advocacy for death row inmates.

The film bears witness to the lawlessness of the American criminal justice system. We see police brutality, the lack of legal representation for poor people and people of color, and the threats, subjugation, and intimidation tactics of authorities to stifle anyone who speaks out against such injustices.

Visually, JUST MERCY is a diorama of the American South, revealing its complicated nature, on the one hand, its longstanding reputation as a vacuum of civil rights. On the other hand it reinforces romantic notions of the South with quiet rural shots, and scenes that show the closeness of local communities. The South is both the backdrop for one nightmare after another as well as someplace almost pleasant.

Numerous references are made to the novel To Kill A Mockingbird, written and set in the same Alabama town, a story in which lauding of the white lawyer’s so-called outstanding morality fully eclipses the faulty system that sentenced an innocent black man to death. The very locals rooting for the death of McMillian view their hometown as a beacon of righteousness because of this tale. How else but through storytelling could people maintain such a system?

The injustice in JUST MERCY is not easy to watch, especially knowing it is happening somewhere as you watch. When you consider the reality, wishing for a happy ending for any one character loses its thrill.

Janielle Williams

Credits

USA 2019, 136 min
Genre: Drama
Director: Destin Daniel Cretton
Author: Destin Daniel Cretton, Andrew Lanham
DOP: Brett Pawlak
Montage: Nat Sanders
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Brie Larson, Jamie Foxx, O'Shea Jackson Jr., Rafe Spall, Tim Blake Nelson
FSK: 12
Release: 27.02.2020

Website

Screenings

Screenings

  • OV Original version
  • OmU Original with German subtitles
  • OmeU Original with English subtitles
English/with English subtitles
All languages

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