Clemency 15

DIRECTOR Chinonye Chukwu
CAST Alfre Woodard, Aldis Hodge, Richard Schiff, Wendell Pierce

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Clemency is the Grand Jury Prize winner from the Sundance Film Festival 2019 and features the performance-of-a-lifetime from Oscar nominee Alfre Woodard. The film tells the story of a prison warden who is confronted by her own psychological demons as an inmate faces the death sentence.

Writer-director Chinonye Chukwu is the first black woman to win the top prize at Sundance.

The genius of Woodard’s performance is the extent to which her demeanour – her stance, her stoicism, the modulation of her voice, even the rhythm of her breathing – tells us more about her character’s journey than verbal exposition ever could. The fact that Clemency approaches the subject of state execution from the perspective of a black female death-row warden is remarkable enough, flying in the face of several movie stereotypes, adding another layer of complexity to Bernadine’s struggles, both personal and political. But it takes an actor of Woodard’s calibre to show us how Bernadine arrived at this point, and why she finds herself so conflicted. Mark Kermode, The Observer