To Kill A Mockingbird

March 26, 2017
4:00 pm

To call both Harper Lee's book and the cinematic adaptation American classics in their respective mediums would be an understatement. While that's true it's more appropriate to place TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD as the most socially influential, relevant and important work of American art of the 1960s.Usually when it comes to novel's of such astounding craft and acclaim a film version is almost guaranteed to disappoint. It's safe to say Robert Mulligan's film is far from inferior to its source. Anchored by one of the all-time great performances in film history by Gregory Peck as the heroic, intelligent father Atticus Finch, Elmer Bernstein's beautiful score and Horton Foote's flawless screenplay, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is that rare film that captures the many emotions and nuances in a work as rich as Lee's novel.While the film reaches deep to shed light on southern America's dark truths it's also an amazingly entertaining, even enjoyable film to experience. It's not an easy feat to accomplish in book form and even harder to pull off on the big screen.The film takes place in the town of Maycomb, Alabama; a place touched by rampant poverty and racism. Atticus Finch is the public defender and his two children, hard-nosed tomboy Scout and her brother Jem, are exposed to these norms of the 1930s and '40s American south.Instead of trying to shelter his children Atticus instead tries more to diplomatically explain the situation, treating them more as adults. When he is appointed to defend a black man accused of rape, Scout and Jem get a first-hand look at the emotional toll their hometown's prejudice can cause.Part coming of age story, part courtroom drama TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD continues to be the defining film and book about racism in America during this time. It's beautiful, emotional and sensitive, but also frank and candid. The charming performances by youngsters Mary Badham (Scout) and Phillip Alford (Jem) and the stoic Peck balance the instances of unmitigated hate by those around them.It's this interplay that makes TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD so special. It captures the innocence and happy-go-lucky spirit of being a kid, the protective and loving nature of being a father, and how the evils of this world challenge all of it. (R.J. LaForce)