A Lesson Before Dying

Watch A Lesson Before Dying

"A young man's destiny becomes a teacher's journey."
  • PG-13
  • 1999
  • 1 hr 45 min
  • 6.7  (1,101)

A Lesson Before Dying is a powerful and thought-provoking movie that was released in 1999. The film is adapted from a novel of the same name written by Ernest J. Gaines. The movie stars Don Cheadle, Cicely Tyson, and Mekhi Phifer in the lead roles. The story is set in the 1940s, in a small town in Louisiana. It revolves around Jefferson, a young African American man who is wrongfully accused of murder and sentenced to death. Jefferson is a victim of the deeply ingrained racism and prejudice that existed in the southern United States at that time. Throughout the movie, the audience experiences the severe mistreatment and discrimination that Jefferson and the other African Americans endure.

Following his trial and sentencing, Jefferson's godmother, Miss Emma (played by Cicely Tyson), approaches Grant Wiggins (Don Cheadle), a schoolteacher in the town, to help her. She wants him to educate Jefferson and teach him how to die like a man, instead of like an animal. Wiggins is initially hesitant to assist, as he has lost faith in education's ability to bring about change, but eventually agrees to help.

Over time, Wiggins develops a deep bond with Jefferson, mentoring him and challenging him to find his own self-worth. As the day of Jefferson's execution approaches, both men must confront the harsh reality of their situation and the injustice that led them there. Throughout their journey together, the audience learns about the dignity of human life and the importance of standing up for what is right.

The story is deeply moving and is a commentary on the prejudices that existed in the south during this time. The film's pacing is slow and deliberate, emphasizing the hardships that the characters face and the fundamental humanity that they share. The movie is a poignant reminder of the systemic racism that was prevalent in America's history and a testament to the power of friendship, solidarity, and education.

Don Cheadle's performance as Wiggins is exceptional, displaying the character's initial reluctance to help as well as the recognition of the importance of his role. His interactions with Jefferson are incredibly compelling, reflecting the depth of their relationships as well as his own personal growth. Mekhi Phifer's portrayal of Jefferson is heart-wrenching, capturing the character's pain and despair in a way that is both moving and powerful.

Cicely Tyson's performance as Miss Emma is also noteworthy, as she conveys the deep love and dedication that she has for her godson. Her character is the embodiment of the resilience and determination that many African American women displayed in their fight for civil rights.

The film is beautifully shot in Louisiana, with the location adding to the authenticity of the story. Director Joseph Sargent has skillfully created a movie that is both evocative and powerful. The audience is left with a lasting impression of the sacrifices that many individuals made in the fight for civil rights and the ongoing struggles that African Americans continue to face.

Overall, A Lesson Before Dying is a masterpiece of storytelling, with its themes of justice, humanity, and education making it a timeless classic. The exceptional performances and poignant message create a movie that is moving and thought-provoking, leaving a profound impact on the viewer.

A Lesson Before Dying
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  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 45 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    6.7  (1,101)