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(For Day 7 of NaPoWriMo, the prompt was a choice between two syllable-based poem forms, the shadorma or the Fib. I chose the Fib, with its syllable count based on the Fibonacci sequence of 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, and 8. Take your pick of which character the poem applies to.)

Please
Have
Mercy
On my soul.
Its owner oft sinned.
Does grace or damnation await?
________________________

MPA rating:  R (for language and stressful themes)

Clemency is a film with a clear message about the cruel nature of the prison system, yet it presents it subtly through the emotional responses of a warden (Alfre Woodard) and the convicted man she is to execute (Aldis Hodge). Woodard is the star here, hiding the psychological toll of her character’s work behind a stolid veil of professionalism while her marriage and soul suffer; the performance feels tailor-made for a Best Actress Oscar nomination, which sadly never came.

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Likewise, Aldis Hodge is a compelling victim, convicted of murder and insistent on his innocence. His guilt is neither verified nor disproven definitively, but he is still defended by his lawyer (Richard Schiff) and comforted by a chaplain (Michael O’Neill). His humanity is the focus as the film condemns neither him nor the warden doing her job. Death and execution are very distressing subjects, whether it’s the electric chair of The Green Mile or the lethal injections used here, and Clemency gets its sad point across while offering little light amidst the darkness. A bit slow in pace, it’s a difficult watch elevated by nuanced acting.

Rank:  Honorable Mention

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