When They See Us from Ava DuVernay [9/10]

If “When They See Us” is judged by its emotional freight, it will count as one of the year’s best series. This wrenching tale of the most egregious miscarriage of justice strikes at the heart of the underlying American racism revealed over three decades, since the Central Park Five, teenagers all, were bullied into “kind of” confessing to the near-murderous 1989 rape of a female stockbroker in Central Park. I remember the event – I arrived in New York on a business trip that night – but barely registered the subsequent story, so it was all brand new to me, and by the fourth episode I could not contain my tears. Director and cowriter Ava DuVernay has absolute control of her incendiary material and how she structures the plot, especially the positioning and framing of the final episode, with a well-pitched sharp closing, is a masterclass in modern filmmaking. All the key actors, including the Five doubled up in their original and subsequent lives, are insanely well acted, and Felicity Huffman’s antagonist performance feels as real as real can get. Each episode’s script is tight, tight, tight, and the wonderful relatively sparing soundtrack is a mix of well known and unfamiliar music. Most highly recommended.

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