The history of our nation has never painted the prettiest picture. The film ‘Just Mercy’ highlights how a past plagued with racism and injustice remains relevant to America today. The biographical movie tells the story of Walter McMillan (portrayed by Jamie Foxx), a local pulpwood worker. In 1987 a heinous murder occurs in the small town of Monroeville, Alabama and law enforcement pin McMillan, a black man, as the primary suspect. In this case, he doesn’t even happen to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time. He is blatantly and wrongfully arrested for a crime that he did not commit.
It isn’t lost on us that the town in which the film takes place, is the birthplace of American author and novelist, Harper Lee. Lee’s most famous novel, ‘To Kill A Mockingbird,’ examines the classic story of race and justice in the South from a child’s perspective. The relevance of this to the film is significant, in that it follows crusading attorney Bryan Stevenson (played by Michael B. Jordan in his fight to save innocent death-row inmate, McMillan from a looming execution.
Although the actual story that the movie is based on happened decades ago, it’s not ironic that it is a recurring story in American history as that even today Black men are “seven times more likely to be wrongfully convicted of murder and three times more likely to be wrongly convicted of sexual assault as compared to white people.”
The raw emotions that are translated through every character on the screen, including a supporting role played by O’Shea Jackson Jr. in his role as Anthony Ray Hinton- another man who spent 30 years on death row in Alabama alongside McMillan for a crime he did not commit- shows audiences what our country’s corrupt legal system looks like.
Brie Larson’s supporting role also reels viewers inside what it means to be fearless and determined in the face of evil – whether or not it affects you- through her portrayal as Eva Ansley (Stevenson’s partner for the Equal Justice Initiative).
‘Just Mercy’ is in theaters everywhere now and the title is just as valid as the message against simmering racial injustice in America- that doing what is morally right and fair will always win eventually.