An awards-worthy performance from Danielle Deadwyler lends a passionate heart to this solidly engrossing and still contemporary historical drama set in 1955 and dedicated “to the life and legacy of Mamie Till-Mobley”. Revisiting the true story of the mother turned activist whose battle for justice proved a cornerstone of the emerging American civil rights movement, director and co-writer Chinonye Chukwu treads a fine line between display and discretion, laying bare brutal truths without alienating a wide audience. The fact that the Emmett Till Antilynching Act was passed into US law last year makes the subject matter all the more timely. We open in sunny pastel tones that will gradually fade into darkness, and the harmonious singalong sounds of doo-wop that mutate into a nightmarish scream – a recurrent motif. Mamie and her 14-year-old son, Emmett, are driving through Chicago, a metropolitan city where underlying racism is largely hidden beneath a veneer of civility. Emmett is due to visit relatives in Mississippi, a prospect that terrifies Mamie. “I don’t want him seeing himself the way those people are seen down there,” she tells her mother, Alma, while instructing her son to “be small down there”. Yet Emmett, a gapped-toothed bundle of naive enthusiasm, is unprepared for the strictures of the segregated south, and soon falls foul of murderous thugs who come calling after dark.