CLEMENCY – Review by Susan Granger

0 Flares 0 Flares ×

Stoic prison warden Bernadine Williams (Alfre Woodard) is psychologically and emotionally exhausted after years of overseeing death-row executions.

“I do my job,” she says. “I give these men respect all the way through.”

But as she’s supervising the execution of a condemned inmate, the carefully-rehearsed procedure goes awry when a harried paramedic struggles to find a viable vein through which to administer the lethal injection.

Shortly afterwards, another inmate is scheduled for execution. Convicted of killing a policeman during a convenience store robbery 15 years earlier, Anthony Woods (Aldis Hodge) sits wordlessly in his cell as his lawyer (Richard Schiff) pursues a last-minute pardon from the Governor.

After Warden Williams calmly explains the protocol of exactly how he will be executed, traumatized Woods tries to commit suicide by forcefully banging his head into the wall.

Meanwhile, the inscrutable Warden’s steely dedication to her job has jeopardized her marriage; her school teacher husband (Wendell Pierce) is planning to retire and begging her to join him.

As founder of a filmmaking collective dedicated to teaching and empowering incarcerated women, writer/director Chinonya Chukwu spent four years researching exactly what happened before and after the 2011 execution of Troy Davis.

“We visited four prisons and met with female wardens, listening to their stories,” Alfre Woodard explains. “What we found is that their PTSD rate is as high as people we sent into battle for multiple tours of duty. If they marry, their marriages rarely survive. They keep to themselves in a way, because no one can understand what they do.”

While Woodard delivers a masterfully restrained performance, the film is excruciating to watch. The point is how enforcing the death penalty not only dehumanizes the condemned but also takes a spiritual toll on those who carry out the execution.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, Clemency is an agonizingly grim 4, challenging society’s sense of justice.

0 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 0 Flares ×

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.