Alfre Woodard delivers a powerhouse performance as a conflicted death row warden in this searing drama, which won the U.S. Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
Presiding over a maximum-security prison, warden Bernadine Williams (Alfre Woodard) is eerily good at what she does. The warden takes pride in carrying out her job with cool, impersonal efficiency despite the strain that overseeing death row inmates’ final moments puts on her marriage and her psyche. But when a botched execution reveals the faults in Bernadine’s seemingly perfect procedure, she’s forced to view her profession in a harsh new light. Bernadine becomes fixated on the impending execution of Anthony (Aldis Hodge), whose seemingly wrongful conviction has become a cause celebre for anti-death penalty activists and whose impassioned lawyer (Richard Schiff) continues to appeal to Bernadine’s sense of conscience. Chinonye Chukwu’s impeccably crafted second feature took home top honors at Sundance and is sure to bring further awards attention for Woodard, whose precise, subtly devastating performance cements her place as one of the finest actors working today. Anchored by her powerful turn, Clemency offers an acutely drawn portrait of a woman whose moral crisis echoes larger questions about America’s policies on execution and the effects of capital punishment on all those involved.
CAST: ALFRE WOODARD, ALDIS HODGE, RICHARD SCHIFF, WENDELL PIERCE
In Competition: Pinkenson Award
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