Anthony's Film Review
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
This adaptation of a classic novel does a fine job overall...
Harper Lee was a novelist known for one book and one book only. To Kill a Mockingbird was the only novel she had ever written, but that didn't change the fact that it won the hearts of so many readers, not to mention the well-deserved Pulitzer Prize it received. It fits the definition of a literary classic: a story with great plot and characters and, most importantly, timeless themes. Even though the story is set in a particular time and place (which, in this case, is the Depression-era South), the concepts of prejudice, intolerance, and acceptance continue to ring true after so many years.
What's even better is that the 1962 film adaptation of the novel stays true to the story. It centers on a lawyer named Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck in a flawless performance) and his two children, a girl named Jean Louise "Scout" Finch (Mary Badham) and a boy named Jem Finch (Phillip Alford). I definitely appreciate how the film presents Scout as the narrator just like in the book, because the story wouldn't work as well from Atticus Finch's perspective. That's because the themes I mentioned affect the children the most, so it's natural to see events through Scout's eyes.
I'm only going to talk about two scenes in the movie, because I think these two definitely represent what To Kill a Mockingbird is all about. The first involves Scout, Jem, and a neighborhood boy named Dill (John Megna) trying to sneak up to a dilapidated house nearby. They are curious about Boo Radley, the son of the man who lives in this house. These children have never seen or met Boo, but they're already afraid of him just because of rumors about how Boo is a frightening person. It's a simple situation that is nevertheless captivating to watch.
The other scene is the one that every reader considers to be the key part of the story. Atticus Finch is asked to defend Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman. The trial that takes place doesn't occupy too much of the film, but you can definitely see what you need to see: how the town is prejudiced against blacks and how the jury could potentially have a verdict even before the actual deliberations. As this is happening, Atticus presents himself as a man of true wisdom, integrity, and honor. He doesn't just do this while defending Robinson. He also does this as a loving father to Scout and Jem.
It's obvious why I discuss these two scenes. The story of To Kill a Mockingbird is essentially just a string of events that share the underlying theme of prejudice. The children's fear of Boo Radley and the townsfolk's racial intolerance are separate events, but they are about the same thing. Expect to see other scenes that have a message. Speaking of which, this is the perfect time to talk about the title. It's mentioned in a scene where the Finch family are dining together. Atticus, while talking about having a gun as a child, says, "It was a sin to kill a mockingbird." Jem asks, "Why?" And Atticus says, "Well, I reckon because mockingbirds don't do anything but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat people's gardens, don't nest in the corncrib. They don't do one thing but just sing their hearts out for us." A beautiful and meaningful quote, don't you think?
Besides the themes, it's worth seeing To Kill a Mockingbird for its performances. Gregory Peck truly deserved his Oscar for this movie. Decades later, the American Film Institute would rank him #1 in its list of top 50 movie heroes. I can see that, because, like I said, Atticus Finch is a man of wisdom, integrity, and honor, which are traits that any hero must have. But he's not the only star. I can honestly say that the child actors playing Scout, Jem, and even Dill are wonderful. Their roles reflect the innocence of childhood and learning about the world, as cruel as it may be at times.
All in all, To Kill a Mockingbird, both the novel and the movie, is a very good classic. It's one of those very simple stories that can tell so much more.
For more information about To Kill a Mockingbird, visit the Internet Movie Database.