Based on the New York Times No.1 bestselling novel and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, Don Cheadle and Cicely Tyson star in 'A Lesson Before Dying." Grant Wiggins (Don Cheadle) has become resigned to racial injustice in the south. Returning to his home town with a college degree, he continues to teach in the same one-room school of his youth. Struggling to make a difference in an
Age restriction: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
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Don Cheadle. A teacher returns home to a segregated South to defend a young man wrongly convicted of killing a white store owner and learns a life-changing lesson in dignity and compassion. 1999/color/101 min/PG-13/fullscreen. On a bright sunny day in 1948, Jefferson (Mekhi Phifer) sets off down the road to go catch some fish; by the end of the movie's opening sequence, he is the one who's been caught, and wrongly accused of the murder of a white shopkeeper. Racial inequality, at the time, is so pervasive in Louisiana that the white defense lawyer's argument at Jefferson's trial is that his client is not worthy of conviction: "You might just as soon put a hog in the 'lectric chair as this," he declares. Outraged by this statement, Jefferson's godmother (Irma P. Hall) does not want her godson to die as a hog. To this end she enlists the reluctant aid of the black community's teacher, Grant Wiggins (Don Cheadle), to teach him to "be a man." As Grant and Jefferson get to know each other (and the viewer gets to know them both), it's not clear which of them needs the lesson more. As in Ernest J. Gaines's award-winning novel, the movie goes beyond the conflict between the races to explore divisions that splinter the black community: education versus religion, dark skin versus light. And, thanks to masterful performances from Cheadle and Phifer as well as a thoughtful screenplay by Amy Peacock, A Lesson Before Dying goes even further, examining what it means to be human and the responsibility a man has to himself and to his community. Originally made for HBO, this adaptation of Gaines's novel richly deserves to be seen by a wider audience. --Larisa Lomacky Moore