“When I die, I will only be a memory to a handful of people. But when you die, your name will live on for lifetimes”
Clemency focuses on the story of Bernadine Williams, a prison warden who has overseen years of death row executions as she comes to terms with the “psychological and emotional demons” that result from such work. Bernadine has always done what is expected of her, but as inmate Anthony Wood’s execution day grows closer, she becomes somewhat entangled in his life and story and starts to question her actions on a deeper level.
Clemency is a powerful and much-needed drama, one which shines a light on the numerous social and societal problems we face today and will continue to face in the future. The screenplay, written by director Chinonye Chukwu, expertly weaves together the many complex emotions that the public feels about death row, morality and the law with subtlety and grace – forming a fabric that is both powerful and thought-provoking. The script’s talent is only elevated by a stellar cast and sensitive direction.
Alfre Woodard – who plays the leading role – demonstrates her talent for subtlety and emotional execution throughout the film. Due to her micro-expressions and body language, her character is speaking to us even when she isn’t talking and, as such, the audience is naturally endeared towards her, no matter how much we may question the morality of her work. Praise must also be awarded to Aldis Hodge, a man sentenced to death, and Richard Schiff, his lawyer – both of whom protest the man’s innocence throughout. Hodge’s emotional capacity is nothing short of astounding, especially as the story progresses and we learn more about how he ended up in prison. Schiff’s portrayal of the desperate lawyer is equally compelling.
In short, Clemency is the sort of story we should be elevating. It is powerful and does what all great art seeks to do: it makes us ask questions; questions which we may not have considered before nor like the answers to, but important questions nonetheless. The film is simplistic in presentation – there is nothing to draw us away from the core message of the narrative – and as such, it is an enticing, gritty and emotionally raw story, one full deserving of a five-star rating.
Clemency is released nationwide on 17th July 2020.
Watch the trailer for Clemency here: