Riviera showing of Mockingbird highlights timeless motifs

The Geneseo Riviera Theater presented the classic 1962 film To Kill a Mockingbird on Saturday Jan. 30. Robert Mulligan directed the film, which was an adaptation of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. The Riviera Theater maintained its original 20th century feel after Don Livingston and Jim Sullivan purchased the property in 2013 and reopened it. This feeling has been especially preserved with the ornate designs on the walls and the theater’s classic movie nights. While viewing To Kill a Mockingbird, it felt as if you were traveling back in time—as if you were dropped in the 20th century and going to see a movie was a big deal.

To Kill a Mockingbird is set in a small town in Alabama during the 1930s. This is a story of the highly respected lawyer Atticus Finch—played by Gregory Peck—putting his career on the line when he agrees to represent an African-American man, Tom Robinson—played by Brock Peters—who is accused of rape. But more importantly, it is a bildungsroman told from the perspective of Finch’s daughter Scout Finch—played by Mary Badham.

As this trial proceeds, it becomes increasingly more apparent to Scout Finch that there is no way that Robinson could have committed this crime against Mayella Ewell—played by Collin Wilcox Paxton. It is particularly appalling when Atticus Finch makes it clear to the all-white jury that the injuries Ewell sustained were ones for which Robinson, who had an injured left hand, could not have done.

Scout and her brother Jem Finch—played by Phillip Alford—mature throughout the film into more understanding individuals. Boo Radley—played by Robert Duvall—is, at the beginning of the film, a kind of superstition; someone to fear. But by the end of the movie and after the trial has finished, Radley has transitioned from a sort of ghost to a human, in Scout Finch’s eyes.

To Kill a Mockingbird portrays the nature of good and evil within humanity. Scout and Jem Finch grow from innocent children who believe all people are inherently good to mature adults who recognize the prevalence of discrimination. They must incorporate what they learn from Robinson’s trial into what they understand about the world—including the existence of social inequality, which remains relevant even today.

To Kill a Mockingbird has enjoyed somewhat of a revival since the 2015 publication of Lee’s sequel Go Set a Watchman, which documented a different side of Atticus Finch and has proven to be controversial. Atticus Finch was shown to have conflicting views about equality and segregation, which changed the way some readers viewed the nature of his character. Many people were disappointed that the man whom they believed to be a sort of moral compass had different, harsher views than those he expressed in To Kill a Mockingbird.

This film is a must-see classic, dealing with issues still relevant today. To Kill a Mockingbird documents a loss of innocence, which is something that everyone who watches will be able to relate to.