Front Row at the Movies by Shirrel Rhoades

5/5 (1)

Could you officially kill someone? While the warden may not pull the switch, he or she has to take the responsibility for carrying out the state’s sentence.

That life-or-death burden would take a toll on anyone short of a psychopath.

Bernadine Williams (Alfre Woodard) portrays a prison warden whose job has gotten the best of her. She must face her personal demons when it comes time to execute another inmate.

“I am alone, and nobody can fix it,” she tells us.

Emotionally distant from her husband (Wendell Pierce), uncommitted to her deputy warden paramour (Richard Gunn), she blots out the reality of her day-to-day life, more akin to Anthony (Aldis Hodge), one of the prisoners on death row.

Anthony is waiting for a call from the governor offering clemency. His unwarranted optimism is a contrast to Bernadine’s acceptance of her fate … a slow psychological disintegration.

“Clemency” is still serving out its sentence this week at Tropic Cinema.

Last year was crowded with dramas about wrongfully incarcerated men – “No Mercy,” “A Hidden Life,” and Netflix’s “When They See Us.” Even so, with “Clemency,” Nigerian-American writer-director Chinonye Chukwu (“Alaska-Land”) managed to become the first black woman to win the US Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.

Now if Alfre Woodward could get the recognition her performance deserves, justice would be served.

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