If Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us were merely a fictional drama, it would be a beautifully acted, albeit infuriating, cautionary tale about the perversion of justice prompted by systematic racism of this country’s law enforcement, particularly in New York, and especially in the timeframe of the 1989 Central Park Jogger case.
That the events of this film actually happened makes it more exasperating, and that this type of police state abuse is still pandemic in 2019, makes it more furiously relevant. The true story is a scab in our country’s racist history (a history ripe – and still ripening – with bleeding scars).
As it stands, it is an artistic triumph, too, at times unbearable, painful and brutal, but never less than mesmerizing. It earned its well-deserved SIXTEEN Emmy nominations, including 8 for the extraordinary cast.
The whole cast is revelatory, but I don’t think I’ve experienced a more masterful evocation on screen this year than that of Jharrel Jerome, who portrays Korey Wise (and is the only actor who plays his role from teen to adult); it is a performance that is nothing less than transcendent, and it will haunt me for years.
Whether screaming at your TV, weeping at the incessant injustice, marveling at the astonishing performances, or cursing that this ever happened, you should not see this merely because of a moral obligation (though, there is that), but also because it is an exceptional artistic achievement. Film-making at its finest.