Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Review: Murder to Mercy

Release date: April 29, 2020
Running time: 96 minutes

In 2004, 16-year-old Cyntoia Denise Brown was arrested in Nashville, Tennessee, for murdering a 43-year-old man who picked her up for sex. She was tried as an adult and sentenced to life in prison, which effectively ended her life.  In Tennessee, the sentence for an adult in this instance was either natural life or parole eligible after 51 years.  However, Cyntoia did all she could to better herself in prison and her legal team did all they could to challenge the verdict.  This film showcases those efforts, both the legal fight to get Cyntoia an opportunity to plead her case as well as the personal development that she went through.

Murder to Mercy is an interesting take on a redemption story documentary.  Most of the ones I have seen focus on someone who was wrongly accused or falsely convicted. However, in this case Cyntoia did the crime; she admits that she murdered the 43-year-old man.  So this case is more about whether or not she should have been tried as an adult and whether there were other factors that should cause her sentence to be mitigated. It is an interesting angle and one that is an important one to show.  Cyntoia made a horrible choice that day, but there might have been other factors that contributed to that choice.  This film explores those and shows that even if you make a mistake, you might still be deserving of a second chance.

However, the film focuses a lot on Cyntoia's initial trial--an important piece of this story--but then doesn't seem to spend enough time on the remaining parts of her story.  There are definitely many actions that take place, but it seems like roughly 66% of the film is on the setup and initial trial.  Also, the story of Cyntoia is pretty much told through the trial information, which is fine for an accurate representation, but did leave me with precious little information in the opening parts of the film.  A recreation or quick story at the start might have helped to mitigate some of this.  And I still feel like this film left some lingering questions about the case in my head.

Murder to Mercy shows that one terrible choice does not have to define your life through a story of redemption and personal growth.

Rent it.

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