Clemency (2019) Movie Review

Clemency – Brilliant

Director: Chinonye Chukwu

Writer: Chinonye Chukwu (Screenplay)

Starring: Alfre Woodard, Richard Schiff, Aldis Hodge, Wendell Pierce, Danielle Brooks, Michael O’Neill

Plot: As she prepares to execute another inmate, Bernadine must confront the psychological and emotional demons her job creates, ultimately connecting her to the man she is sanctioned to kill.

Runtime: 1 Hour 52 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Story: Clemency starts as we see how prison warden Bernadine Williams (Woodard) watches over the latest execution which does go wrong, with her latest execution being lined up for Anthony Woods (Hodge) being that man, Bernadine is starting to struggle with the effects off her actions, with Anthony’s lawyer Marty Lumetta (Schiff) trying to get the decision overturned.

Bernadine starts seeing the people she has worked with for years looking to step away and retire, her husband wanting to retire and she starts to wonder if her career decision was correct and this latest case could help Bernadine make her own decision, as Anthony is fighting for clemency.

Thoughts on Clemency

Characters & Performances – Bernadine Williams is a prison warden on a death row prison, she has overseen many executions and follows procedure on everything she does, keep her prison under control, her latest execution goes wrong, which starts to see her questioning everything, suffering from nightmares of the event and seeing the people she has worked with for years either retiring or moving on. She does start to get more emotionally invested in the latest execution, wanting to help the man, while trying to atone for her previous actions. Alfre Woodard is brilliant in this leading role, showing the ability to look in command in the job, without needing to be a strict person, as well as the vulnerable side inside her own home, where she has been struggling through. Marty Lumetta is the lawyer that is trying to help Anthony get off his execution, this will be his last case and he will give it everything believing that Anthony isn’t only innocent, but deserves to be more open to a normal prison sentence. Richard Schiff is great too, which is going to be said about the whole cast, he brings the desperate to do the right thing to the film, to balance Bernadine’s professional nature. Anthony Woods is the man facing his execution, he was convicted of killing a police officer which he denies and he is left to hope his lawyer will save him as he slowly learns more about his life that he never knew. Aldis Hodge is fast becoming one of the best performers in the industry and this will go down as one of his best. We do have an excellent supporting cast that all performer amazingly showing the difficult side of the situation they find themselves in.

StoryThe story here follows a death row prison warden who starts to question her career when the latest execution is being lined up when the man starts to claim he never committed the murder and even the evidence can back this up. This story does bring up one of the biggest topical questions around with whether the death penalty is still acceptable, while we might not dive into the ins and outs of the cases, we see how the warden, guards and chaplain are all dealing with being around the idea of it, showing them meet people who are fighting against it, family members of the victims and giving the warden the idea of not being allowed to be put into the decision process. We do get to see how Bernadine does feel like she is getting older in this world, which goes hand in hand with the idea of the death penalty being an old idea.

ThemesClemency does focus more on the characters, with the changes coming through the mindset in the characters, with large parts of the film being set inside the prison, making everything feel empty.

Clemency is a brilliant movie that will give Alfre Woodard the spotlight she deserves and tells the important discussion on the death penalty.

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