Clemency (2019) Review

Bernadine Williams is a prison warden and after carrying out death row executions for many years it is starting to take its toll on her, when preparing for the next execution she finds herself in a psychological and emotional battle as she get to know Anthony Woods.


Clemency is a truly emotional and tough film to watch, the opening scene with an execution that does not fully go to plan certainly sets the mood for the film. Inmate Victor Jimenez was being put to death but when the medic struggles to find an arm vein to use he is instructed by Bernadine to use the femoral vein instead. It still does not go well and his heart eventually stops. After this we see Bernadine struggles with insomnia and recurring nightmares, which I guess shows that she actually did care about what her job entailed.

Anthony Woods is a rather quiet man who refuses to talk to Bernadine when visiting his cell on death row, as she knows his lawyer quite well she finds out that the final appeal has been lost after a seven year battle and the preparations for his death begin. She battles her demons when at home which includes heavy drinking and then arguing with her husband Jonathan. He wants her to leave the job and hopefully be happier with life.

As we get to know Anthony it is shown that he has always expressed his innocence and not long before his execution date he finds out that he actually has a son, something that his ex-girlfriend always kept hidden from him. I mean can you think of anything worse as your about to die finding out that you had a child, I felt this made some moments even more brutal after finding that out.

We have quite a lot of films based around death row and they all seem to capture something a little bit different. I always find them quite fascinating considering in the UK we do not have the death penalty. Showing the different appeals and how you only have so many times you can try and prove your actual innocence is something that must be so terrifying for the people who really did not commit the crime they were sentenced to murder for.

The performances in the film from Both Alfre Woodard and Aldis Hodge are really fantastic and make the film a worthwhile watch. The scenes they have together and then alone to show the true heartache of the situation is really fantastic. I have been following Hodge’s career for quite a while now and I think this could be his best performance so far, I hope a film like this helps to push his career even further forward. Woodard is great in the leading role as well, I thought it was actually really good to have a female in that job as well considering I have not seen that in this type of film before. She got the balance perfect between the professional persona and the falling apart the leaving work. It really must be one of the most difficult jobs when you have someone who could actually be innocent.

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