Note: This is #43 in my 52 Classic Movies in 52 Weeks challenge for 2009.
To Kill a Mockingbird is based directly on Harper Lee’s novel of the same name, so if you’ve read that book (you have, haven’t you?) you should know the plot minus a few minor changes. The film centers on Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck), a Southern gentleman working as a lawyer during the Great Depression. Atticus holds strongly to his principles of respect, empathy, and justice and in his orbit are his two children, six-year old daughter Scout and ten year old son Jem, as well as a precocious neighbor boy Dill. When Atticus is assigned to defend a Black man accused of raping a White woman, his principles are put on display as he does his best to defend the man, whom he believes to be innocent but whom many in the town want to lynch without a trial.
Reviewing this movie is kind of hard, since I read and loved the book so much. While the movie stays mostly true to the book, there’s a whole lot more substance and subtleties to the latter. The movie chooses to focus more on Atticus and the trial, where the book had Scout Finch as the central character, and gave you an idea of what it was like to grow up in that place and in that time and under the care of that man. The book also had the mystery of the Finches’ enigmatic neighbor Boo Radley running through it, which plays a relatively small role in the movie.
Still, this was a great film and even a diminished portion of Harper Lee’s work is still a filling one. Gregory Peck did a great job as Atticus Finch, and his courtroom scene where he defends Tom Robinson is second only to the one where he has to inform Tom’s wife of the ensuing tragedy. It’s good stuff, and you should see it. But read the book first.