Review: To Kill a Mockingbird
There’s a lot of ugly things in this world, son. I wish I could keep ’em all away from you. That’s never possible.
Cinema is filled with virtuous role models and noble characters but there are few better than Gregory Peck’s Atticus Finch. I haven’t read Harper Lee’s book, so I came into the film with few expectations and found To Kill a Mockingbird to be a stunning look at prejudice and racism in the Depression-era south.
Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) is a lawyer in an Alabaman town in the 1930s that’s beset by racial prejudices. When a young black man is accused of assaulting a white woman Finch agrees to be his lawyer and prove his innocence, but will the truth come out?
I initially expected the film to be told from the perspective of Peck’s Atticus but it’s told from the viewpoint of his son and daughter, who witness the escalating racial tensions in the town as well as confront their own prejudices.
It’s a simple and effective way of talking about a thorny subject, introducing it through a child’s perspective that’s still developing. They come to understand the world and its complexities, of how right and wrong are not so black and white, while Peck’s paternal Finch tries his best to nurture them through this clash of cultures. It’s eminently watchable and the acting, especially from the kids, is of a high standard.
Finch tries as much as he can to shield them from the dangers of the world (he’s a single father). He’s a protector: an advocate for the truth and a responsible man who doesn’t rise to provocation and insists on the fairness and purity of justice – the levelling factor in contentious matters in which you hope prejudices can be put aside.
The last twenty minutes veer between being demoralising and uplifting, bringing the film’s themes of justice, bigotry, fairness and fear and making a point on how prejudice blinds people and the value of our actions in a society that blames others to cover up its own ills. A classic Hollywood story.