hello everyone, and welcome to another review from the Classic Film Kid! Today we are looking at the 1962 adaptation of Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill A Mockingbird.
This film is implied to be set during the Great Depression around the early 1930s and follows the life of 2 children, Jem and Scout, who live an ordinary kids life but keep spying on Boo Radley, a citizen who rumours circulate around. They discover their widowed father, Atticus Finch, is defending a black man against an unfair charge and coupled with the rumuors they begin to realise the world isn’t as perfect as they may think.
Now, this isn’t the only site I review films for. What got me started in film criticism was signing up to IntoFilm, a site, and company that encourages children to get into cinema. There are extensive reviews of multiple films, but I’m going off topic. I always have a laugh reading kids reviews of old films. They always say, ‘It’s black and white, it’s boring, it’s confusing, nothing happens, there are no explosions, I hate this movie,’ and especially with this film I’ve seen comments like that. They don’t get it. This is a powerful and unbelievably riveting drama that is one of the best films ever made.
What I really admired about this movie were the characters. Jem and Scout are really likeable and relatable especially for me, as they were just how your stereotypical kids were back in the day. Playing on the streets in the evenings, wanting to have a bit of adventure in this ruined house, chatting to their neighbours. And because of them being so carefree, they stumble on what their father is dealing with and get exposed to some of the harshness of our world, which every man, woman and child can easily see on the news, especially nowadays, what with mad politics and terrorism and all. And what benefits the characters is a realistic and compelling story, using the typical courtroom scenarios (we’ll get to that shortly) and a Scooby Doo-like mystery to get out some truly brilliant messages.
Also what I liked about this movie was the cinematography. Yes, it is suitably simplistic for the majority, but the lighting is really nice and fits the various sets. As well as that, there are some standout shots, like at the end where you see Boo Radley hiding behind the door, but it’s not shown in close-up. It’s shown in the corner of the screen, with light shining on our other characters with shadows on the other side of the room, and it’s a really creepy shot and one I particularly wanted to mention.
But here’s what everyone really wants to mention when they think of To Kill A Mockingbird, and I reckon you’re thinking of it too. The courtroom scene. The flipping courtroom scene!
This is where the plot concerning the charges comes into play, and it is a dialogue-driven 15 minute sequence that had me drooling and gripping the edge of my seat, anticipating the outcome. I watched in awe as Gregory Peck, who by the way is fantastic in this film, walked around the room, questioning both the suspect and the victim, and the performances really help this scene too, they are realistic and emotion-filled. How there was barely any music during this scene as well was great as it used the lack of this and sound effects to its advantage, to heighten tension.
All this has made this scene go down in cinema history and rightfully so, I could sing praise about it all day if I’m honest. Although the thing is, because there is pretty much nothing regarding adrenaline-powered drama to be found in this film, it does mean the pacing can sometimes feel just a bit sluggish. I’m not necessarily saying it’s a negative, it’s good to have a break from constant action and drama all the time, particularly in the first act and some of the scenes after the courtroom just feel like they’re discussing the same subject over and over again. Like I said, we should have more films like this nowadays which I’m gonna get onto in my conclusion shortly, it’s just sometimes it feels a bit slow like the plot isn’t really getting anywhere.
These are all minor nitpicks, as I found To Kill A Mockingbird an interesting, moving and powerful drama with some really great underlying themes and some truly gripping sequences, all capped off by fantastic acting, some fitting cinematography, and characters that you can really get behind. I have to be brutally honest with you guys here: when earlier I mentioned about other kids who hate this film because it’s not what they usually see, before viewing this film, I thought I would fit into that category. And I’m so unbelievably glad I didn’t. Apart from a few moments of lag, this is a truly great film, and I’m going to give To Kill A Mockingbird a 9.5/10.
Well, that’s another review in the bag. Next time, we will jump forward a decade to the 1970s, where Lucasfilm created a phenomenon that is still going strong today. Join me soon, where I will review Star Wars: A New Hope! See ya!