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Movie Review: “When They See Us”

*Disclaimer: I’m not a black, Latinx or an indigenous individual. I’m an aspiring POC ally. 

The gruesome tale of the Exonerated Five was a story that captivated America in 1989. Almost 30 years later, the dramatization of what they went through as kids is a must-watch for individuals trying to understand what kind of world we’re a part of.  When They See Us provides a concoction of captivating performances and a more realistic definition for the word “justice.” Suffice to say it’s not a show that’s meant for “light binging,”  however, all you want to do after watching episode one is to fall into the world of episode two, and so on. Though the limited series came out over a year ago, the underlying message is still clearly relevant and necessary to consider. There are times whilst viewing this show that it’s easy to forget that five young boys and their families truly underwent what we saw on Netflix. In most cases, their trial and their subsequent treatment was way worse than what can be shown on a streaming website. This miniseries is only trying to articulate the truth of these five men, and the harsh reality that Black and Brown individuals face everyday. This is not just a viewing for those minorities, but for anyone who wants to be educated on the systemic racism in the justice system. The actors hold nothing back as they carefully layer each harrowing event endured by the five young boys while adding a necessary layer of humanity to their story that challenges viewers to reconsider what it means to find justice and peace in America. It’s easy to forget that most of these phenomenal actors aren’t that much older or younger than us. Each painful moment of their story was thoroughly conveyed and performed in a way that it’s difficult to hold back your tears and directly look at the parts of reality that are polarizing our country. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, actor Joshua Jackson, who played Michael Joseph, a lawyer who defended Antron McCray, stated, “what did I learn about the justice system? I learned that it’s the wrong name for it.” There is strength and unity in justice; the exonerated five were broken and forced to fight the demons in front of them as well as the ones inside them. The performance of each and every actor in the show holds a medallion to that truth; it doesn’t take looking beyond their eyes to fathom their emotions, even on a miniscule scale. In short, When They See Us isn’t just a miniseries or a message, it’s a small snapshot of what the justice system is capable of and how things have changed, but it does not mean it is better. 

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