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  • Writer's pictureStrictly Films

Clemency Grade: B+

Source: IMDB

Clemency tells an emotionally traumatizing story, about a Warden named Bernadine (Alfre Woodard) whom is in charged of a prison cell and in charge of prisoners execution of the death penalty. Her last execution didn’t go as smoothly as the previous ones, so her mental health has been taken a toll while also problems in her own marriage. Bernadine awaits for another execution revolving around Anthony Woods (Aldis Hodge), whom admits to committing a robbery but does not admit of being accused of murdering a cop. Anthony Woods keeps his hopes high, but suddenly crashes down as he comes to reality that his execution is coming near, as judges refuse to grant anything to Anthony. The Cinematography was pretty good, lots of great shots of this prison. I enjoyed the over view shots on an angle during one occurrence, also the different colors in the final concluding shot was nice as well. The Score was settle, but when presented t’was solid. The cast in this film all in all were pretty damn good. I was wondering where I saw Alfre Woodard from, as it felt like I’ve seen her in a film not too long ago. Then it hit me... She was Juanita in the Netflix original film Juanita... Well then. In her role as Bernadine she was great, I think she bounced back from that laughably embarrassing performance in this really dark role. The character Bernadine can be relatable to just about anyone when it comes to maintaining a job. You start to forget morals and values and even your family, that you’re too entitled to your job to wake up to reality. Some may question why Bernadine wasn’t too fond of retiring along with her husband, but like most people when you’re used to being in one place for so long as you become completely numb to it... The idea of leaving is ludicrous to one. The character arc for this character was done really well, where you understand how she comes near towards a change to the light. That one freakish accident messed her big time, as it felt like a part of her was snapped out being completely comfortable in her dark surrounding. With Anthony Woods she begins to hear the out cry’s of the protesters outside the prison, chanting his name over and over again, while listening to the news as she becomes to doubt that this man deserves death over a crime he may of not done. Aldis Hodge just played a character whom was wrongfully accused of a crime he did not commit with Brian Banks. I thought the film was average, but Aldis Hodge in that performance was just eh as he struggled in many scenes, it could be due to poor direction but at least the character was just fine as written. Aldis Hodge as Anthony Woods is EXCELLENT, the risks and challenges this man had to take on this role is incredibly haunting and he does it with tremendous excellence. Some of the scenes he partakes in emotionally destroys the audience, as you can’t help but feel completely sorry for this man, as your once rattled in that one gruesome prison scene of him coming to reality that his time in this world maybe coming to an end. A well written character, where it breaks your heart entirely start to finish. I do have a few flaws with Clemency. The film introduces inmates being fond of the birds flying around the prison, Anthony also has drawings of birds on the wall of his cell. I felt they didn’t explore the birds to his full potential, as it’s there in the beginning and never comes back ever again. I felt the birds were a metaphor for freedom and how the inmates would feed the birds, to secure their freedom. But when it’s hardly explore, you sometimes question why show it at all?! I mean I could’ve seen a potential touching scene in the end of Anthony Woods and birds, not to say the concluding scene wasn’t done properly, it’s just I would like to see a pay off for what this film has started. Some pacing issues here and there. There is also one occurrence, where Bernadine’s husband was staying at a hotel as it comes off completely random. Bernadine’s husband was sleeping on the bed, while Bernadine was sleeping on the couch as the two weren’t connecting the way they should be. But after their little fight, it never once crossed my mind as to why her husband would go stay at a hotel? It’s quite a shame this film had a limited release in December of 2019, which now resulted in being released in Vegas for one week at the end of January. Honestly this film like A Hidden Life is going to become an underrated gem as well: This film is emotionally riveting, but is done so well. I honestly think this film is a much better version of Just Mercy on just about every level. Some people will likely like Just Mercy over this, due to the fact it’s more of a basic crowd pleaser, which I don’t mind because it’s a good movie. But what Clemency does differently than Just Mercy is they actually attempt to explore the complete darkness, of not only being wrongfully accused of a crime, but having to go forward with the death penalty situation. Sure that is briefly explored in Just Mercy, but it’s done casually where you don’t feel like you’re there. In this film whether it be the prisoner or the warden... You honestly feel like you’re there with them, as you feel completely dead inside. I think anyone whom watches this film are going to feel differently about the death penalty and even the justice system in general. Also the cast/crew are giving more an effort in this film, to strive for excellence over Just Mercy. Like you can see it out of Hodge and Woodard’s performances alone that want to deliver greatness, I just felt the intensity I wanted from a film like this one. The story itself is well written that rattles your mind and soul to it’s core start to finish. What I truly appreciate out of this film is that it explores two characters that are trapped. Sure Bernadine is free on the outside and not in a prison cell, but inside her mind she’s trapped as she just can’t get out of this line of work, which is making her a walking corpse. Hope to see more out of Chinonye Chukwu in the future, because she definitely has a solid amount of talent behind the camera and on paper. Overall, Clemency is a pretty damn good film. I highly recommend this film if it’s playing near you. 2019 for Neon Rated films was truly a great year for that film company, hopefully another great year awaits for them moving forward. -Mitch Smietana

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