To Kill A Mockingbird, like a great many books and movies that teach lessons about the value of truth and decency through presentation of a context that has ceased
To Kill A Mockingbird, like a great many books and movies that teach lessons about the value of truth and decency through presentation of a context that has ceased to value either, is centrally a story about children. Jem and Scout learn how their community values the words and lives of black and white people differently as they watch their father, Atticus, (Gregory Peck in the role that defined his career) defend Tom Robinson (Brock Peters) against a charge of sexual assault. And the kids’ perspective is largely our perspective, as audience; To Kill A Mockingbird leaves no doubt, and intends no subtlety, about who is guilty and who innocent. It’s not complicated, and it’s not a story about justice — at least not about legal justice. It is, however, a story about fairness, and in a lot of ways it’s the kind of story one would tell a child about how fairness and unfairness are sometimes rewarded. As Atticus tells Jem: “There’s a lot of ugly things in this world, son. I wish I could keep them all away from you, but that’s never possible.” To Kill a Mockingbird shows us a very ugly thing, and says that our character is determined by the way we react to that ugliness. That lesson is still true, and the movie still feels relevant and alive today.
Immediately after the film, retired Tampa Bay Times film critic Steve Persall will lead a short discussion of To Kill A Mockingbird and an audience Q&A. The session is included with film admission.