To Kill a Mockingbird (Robert Mulligan, 1962)
In the thirties in Alabama, Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) is a widow and a lawyer father of Scout (Mary Badham) and Jem (Phillip Alford). Saw in the eyes of the children the story is simple but beautifully told about the trial of a black man who supposedly raped and beat a young white woman. Atticus is the lawyer of the black man in this trial that will reveal to the children the racism and the evil of the world.
Gregory Peck inhabits Atticus and the character is presented to be just, kind, and has a great deal of empathy. He tries to be both the perfect dad and does all he can to fill the void of the lack of a mother for his children. This is one of the most iconic father figures that films has ever produced.
Based on Harper Lee’s Pulitzer winning novel of the same name, the story is told with a voice over of Scout thirty years later. The way the film is shot and its pace clearly kept a very literal spirit. It helps a lot for it’s episodic telling of the plot. However, it is one of the main popular criticism to say that the story isn’t well written. But on the contrary I believe that it is one of its greatest strength to be episodic and almost hard to follow. Our children memories are made of moments that shaped our lives. It recalls three summers of children who were living some life changing moments.
Getting back to Gregory Peck’s performance, it is very stereotypical to state this but he was born to portray Atticus and his presence all in subtlety and restraint were rightly suited for him. The glasses and manners could have mellow or weak figure. But he was playing his role to perfection and rendered an unforgettable Atticus.
Listed in AFI top 100 films of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird is an outstanding studio film production from producer Alan J. Pakula and directed by Robert Mulligan. A great entertainment that passed through the ages and that will continue to inspire many men and women. However, compared to Lawrence of Arabia, Lolita, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Jules and Jim, and Hatari! it lacks in depth and originality. Those aforementioned films have cinematic values that the well crafted and wonderfully acted To Kill a Mockingbird doesn’t carry. Still, it is a very good picture.