Clemency is a critically acclaimed film that mines serious social issues for gripping drama, brought to life by an outstanding cast, starring Alfre Woodard, Wendell Pierce and Aldis Hodges (see trailer above). It registers an outstanding 98% Fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes, with 45 critics weighing in, out of which only one did not certify the movie fresh. And considering that one critic was a white woman in Toronto, it in understandable that she did not have a perspective to truly appreciate all the nuances of black men on death row in America.
In the film, years of carrying out death row executions have taken a toll on prison warden Bernadine Williams (Alfre Woodard). 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.
The film carries a Rating of R, for some disturbing material and language, not for sex and violence.
The 112 minute long film was written and directed by Chinonye Chukwu. It was produced by Bronwyn Cornelius, Julian Cautherley, Peter Wong, Timur Bekbosunov, and Alfre Woodard. It is scheduled for limited release in theaters on December 27, 2019 by NEON Pictures.
Clemency stars Alfre Woodard as Warden Bernadine Williams, Wendell Pierce as Jonathan Williams, Aldis Hodge as Anthony Woods, Richard Schiff as Marty Lumetta, Danielle Brooks as Evette, LaMonica Garrett as Logan Cartwright, Michael O’Neill as Chaplain Kendricks, Michelle C. Bonilla as Sonia, Vernee Watson-Johnson as Mrs. Collins, Dennis Haskins as Mr. Collins, Richard Gunn as Thomas Morgan, and Alma Martinez as Ms. Jimenez.
The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 27, 2019. It won the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize there, making Chukwu the first black woman to win the award. It screened at the San Diego International Film Festival on October 18, 2019. On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 76 out of 100, based on 8 critics, indicating “generally favorable reviews.”
Last week, the PRIDE ran a column by Dwight Brown of the NNPA (National Newspaper Publishers Association) on the best films of the year. Here’s what Brown had to say about Clemency: “[Alfre] Woodard creates a protagonist who is equally likeable and unapproachable. Her steely performance is complemented by supporting cast members.”
Manohla Dargis wrote in The New York Times, “With visual austerity and not an ounce of sentimentality, Chukwu transforms a character study into an indictment of institutionalized murder.”
Carla Renata, noted in The Curvy Film Critic, “Chinonye Chuckwu perfectly encapsulates and humanizes lawyers, criminals and prison staff in this heart stopping drama. This is by far a career best for the legendary Alfre Woodard.”
And Jamie Broadnax, in Black Girl Nerds, said “Clemency examines with integrity and truth – the emotional weight of a prison warden’s duty of carrying out executions through this impactful story filled with groundbreaking performances.”