To Kill A Mockingbird has always been looked upon as an instant classic because of its very important themes dealing with race during the 1930’s Alabama, a time where racism was rampant all across the United States especially in the southern states. The film itself, based on the popular and timely novel by Harper Lee, was released in 1962 which was during the civil rights movement. Some critics called this film an innocent film because of the time it was released. It was released back when people were more relaxed, but in the fifty years since then, society has gotten more uptight due to everything that has been going on. Despite a loss of innocence, this is a fantastic movie that has very important themes, even by today’s standards. This is not only one of my favorite movies from the 1960’s, but it’s also one of my all-time favorite movies.
This movie can be divided into two mini-movies. One movie is a coming-of-age story told through the eyes of a six-year-old girl named Scout. Scout and her older brother, Jem play in the hot, hazy Alabama sun every day and they have adventures with their next door neighbor, whom they just met. They tell each other tales about another neighbor of theirs named Mr. Radley, whom rumor has it chained up his son, Boo every day. I believe this part of the story was told extremely well, and it returned the memories of my childhood where I used to go off on similar adventures.
While the children play, their father named Atticus Finch goes to the courthouse every day, and that leads us on to what the other half of the film is about. This can also be perceived as a courtroom drama, an effective one to boot. The basic story goes that Finch is asked by the town’s sheriff to defend a black man who has been accused of rape. The townspeople request Atticus, who is a white man, to stop defending the black man, Tom Robinson. But Atticus believes everyone has a right to be defended, so he decided to continue along with the case.
The courtroom scene is the most powerful scene of the movie. There is no doubt about that. The speech Atticus gave talking about ideals and values to show why Tom was innocent of his accused crime is the most powerful speech you’ll hear in any movie. I won’t deny there were some tears running down my cheeks as I listened to those tender, powerful words. The movie made clear it was on Atticus’s side. Through the evidence and the witnesses in the trial, it was clear Tom is innocent, But given this is Alabama in the 1930’s, the all-white jury had other ideas. Another extremely powerful scene is after the jury gave its verdict. The black people were segregated from the white people of course, but as everyone cleared out, they all stood in silence watching Atticus. A sign of respect for what he did for their cause. It was only one man, but now it was clear that there were people out there who believed in equal rights. Not just people, but white people who believed.
The first half of the movie was all about Scout and her adventures, before it transitioned to a courtroom drama. But after the courtroom drama ended, you would expect the movie to be over. Actually, we transition back to Scout who finds herself in trouble from a racist man named Ewell, whom her father gave a hard time during the trial. Ewell is actually the father of the supposed rape victim and he was doing anything to make sure Robinson was guilty. But this is the time where the mysterious Boo Radley comes into play, where he shows he is not the person the whispers across town make him out to be. This is the part of the movie where the title comes from. If you have seen this movie, you know what I mean.
I really loved this story. It may be a clichéd story in today’s world, but it was something fresh back in 1962. Despite all the clichés, it is all about story execution. The screenplay and the direction by Robert Mulligan are rather light, but I felt for each character. I rooted for Atticus, Scout, and even Boo the entire movie. You know a movie is great when that happens. In other words, I loved the proper people and I hated the proper people. Another thing to look at in getting to know the characters is how the actors bring them to life. In this movie, the actors brought Harper Lee’s words to life and gave that life meaning. Gregory Peck won Best Actor at the Oscars for his wonderful, stirring performance as Atticus Finch. That speech is what most likely won him that prestigious award. But his performance throughout the entire film was a reserved, quiet performance. A performance that resembled the real-life Gregory Peck. Mary Badham gave a terrific performance as the young tomboy, Scout. She gave the film a sense of adventure and she was very supportive of her father, despite her limited understanding of what was going on. It’s a shame that Badham never had an acting career after her role here. She was an incredible part of this movie’s success. Also, I must note the film features the first onscreen performance of future acting legend in Robert Duvall as Boo Radley. Duvall doesn’t speak, but his actions create some of the movie’s most memorable sequences.
Overall, To Kill A Mockingbird is a very powerful, effective movie that came out at a time where hope was in the air. Hope for the black people to finally receive equal rights. Thematically, this was a very important movie. It was one of the earliest movies to actually portray black people in a positive light from the view of white people. Looking at events occurring across the world today, the themes of this movie can still be considered important. I loved this movie very much so. The acting and the story received the most praise from me. But let’s not forget about the wonderful black-and-white cinematography nor the beautiful piano score by Elmer Bernstein. This is a movie for all movie lovers should see.
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
My Grade: A+