To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird ★★★★★

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.
-Atticus Finch

The acclaimed film by director Robert Mulligan, based on the acclaimed novel by Harper Lee, has had everything possible said about it already. Mulligan directed To Kill a Mockingbird early in his feature film career and was never able to surpass it even though he continued making films for almost another 30 years. With that said however, some directors never make a single masterpiece, Mulligan simply made his early in his career.

While Gregory Peck won the Academy Award for his portrayal of the now iconic Atticus Finch, it's actually the character of Scout that is the key to the entire film. Played by 10 year old Mary Badham, the story is told from 7 year old (I think)Scout's point of view while being narrated by an "older Scout". This enables several characters and key moments in the film to be read in various ways.

The character of Atticus Finch, brilliantly played by Peck, is the epitome of human behavior with an unwavering moral code beyond reproach. In a small town mostly inhabited by racists and people who are too scared to speak up against them, how is it possible that this one man is able to exist in such an environment? It's simple. It's because that's how Scout Finch remembers her father. Finch always knows the right thing to do and say, so therefore should be a fairly boring character but Peck is able to portray him with exemplary charm and screen presence without betraying the character for one moment. People see Atticus Finch as the perfect father figure because that's how the 7 year old Scout sees him.

This also plays into several other scenes that seem to conclude in an all to innocent manner, but when taking into account that this story is being recounted by the memories of a 6-7 year old child then it gives a whole new meaning to some scenes. The biggest example of this is the fact the sheriff seems powerless in a key scene towards the middle of the film, and then reappears in the third act to give some distressing news. The news he gives seems improbable and an adult would draw some dangerous conclusions on what really happened, but again these are Scout's memories.

The charm doesn't end with Peck though as Mary Badham is incredibly charismatic in her feature film debut. Her scenes alone with Peck are incredibly heartwarming and a highlight of the film. Phillip Alford and John Megna, also making their feature film debuts, hold their own with Badham playing her brother Jem and childhood friend Dill. The character of Dill is based off of Harper Lee's childhood friend Truman Capote, doesn't really add anything to the film, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

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