The refreshing take on the subject is that Clemency attempts to humanize all angles of the situation and the very real toll it takes on all those involved. Bernadine returns home to her husband, Jonathan (Wendell Pierce) and while still in love, we sense a tension. Memories of the solemn procedure of executions send Bernadine into night terrors and solitary late nights vacantly watching television on the couch.
“…attempts to accurately depict the collateral damage of the current imperfect system of justice.”
We also focus on the day-to-day life that death row inmate Anthony has in the prison as he awaits any act of mercy or kindness that would save him from death. Hodge’s performance is a profoundly beautiful piece of work. Director Chinonye Chukwu lets the actors do the heavy lifting in many of the scenes, with long, unbroken takes that contain little dialogue, staying focused on the performer. In one scene Bernadine stands outside Woods’ cell going over the procedures for execution in a very mannered, antiseptic fashion. The camera stays on him the whole time, allowing waves of emotion to ebb and flow across his expressive face.
Chinonye Chukwu wrote and directed this yet-to-be-released drama that explores just how executions affect everyone be it directly or otherwise. The script carefully stays away from the debate of executions and instead attempts to accurately depict the collateral damage of the current imperfect system of justice.
Clemency is a staggering achievement in its portrayal of a story that we often ignore out of simple spite or ignorance that humanizes all angles with compassion. Should this film get picked up, it would be sure-fire Oscar bait for both Woodard and Hodge, with maybe even a script nomination with the right campaign. Heavy, but ultimately very rewarding, Clemency deserves a chance.
Clemency screened at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and 2019 Toronto International Film Festival.
"…a staggering achievement in its portrayal of a story that we often ignore..."