Always in Season (2019) Review

Always in Season is an eye-opening look into the grotesque practice of lynching that plagued parts of the United States. The film addresses historical accounts and current lynching reenactments, and it funnels down to a single family that suspects one member was lynched as recent as 2014. While the documentary offers a lot of content – most of it beautifully shot and achingly paced – it also feels too broad to be truly engrossing and is missing parts of the story in its investigation to feel satisfying.

Film Summary

Claudia Lacy lost her 17-year-old son, Lennon Lacy, in 2014. After wishing him goodnight and going to bed, Lennon was discovered the next morning hanging from a swing set in Bladenboro, NC. His death was ruled a suicide by authorities, but Claudia believes her son was lynched. The majority of the documentary follows this story, including interviews with Claudia, Lennon’s older brother, Pierre, and other relevant parties, like a medical coroner and a local newspaper.

Considerations

It’s in this story that the documentary feels like it doesn’t trust its viewers to have the right opinion of the circumstances. So, it doles out perspective-changing information in chunks throughout the film. For example, when the circumstances of Lennon’s death are juxtaposed with B-roll of Confederate flags, it’s easy to imagine white supremacists carrying a rope tied in a noose on the prowl for their next victim. It’s not until halfway through the film that audiences see that the hanging device was actually a contraption fashioned from belts, which gives the impression of something hastily done rather than premeditated.

Then it’s not until the last third of the film that audiences are presented with Lennon’s girlfriend at the time, Michelle Brimhall, who was nearly twice Lennon’s age. She also had left her husband, had three children of her own, and was suspected of being a prostitute to support her drug habit. She’s also white, and the film tries to point to the interracial couple as a motive for Lennon’s possible killer. There’s even some documentary sleight of hand where an audio clip of a man who speaks in the cadence of a news anchor states that the interracial relationship is a suspected cause for Lennon’s death, but it’s unclear if the audio is actually from a news outlet.

I wish the film had focused on this story and these people since their backgrounds, personal struggles, and the reactions to their performance felt the most powerful.

None of this is to say that Lennon wasn’t lynched or that his death wasn’t racially motivated. There’s just not enough evidence presented in the film to be convincing of those interpretations. And the fact that the film doesn’t explore other explanations, like a fight with one of Michelle’s alleged Johns gone bad, is disappointing. There’s also some animosity for the police and how slowly they worked on Lennon’s case while quickly determining his suicide. Yet, Director Jacqueline Olive never presents the side of the investigators. It doesn’t even seem like she made the attempt. If they had refused to talk to her, then that would have helped reinforce suspicions that the police force was hiding something. Instead, suspicion now falls on the film for leaving out pieces that feel necessary to see the whole picture.

In retrospect, what engrosses me the most in this film is the lynching reenactment group, which comprises both white and black actors from the community. The group shares its struggles with finding white people to play the lynch mob, with many actors backing out at the last minute. At least one white reenactor has personal familial history with the Ku Klux Klan, and she seems to participate in the reenactment as a form of absolution. I wish the film had focused on this story and these people since their backgrounds, personal struggles, and the reactions to their performance felt the most powerful.

Final Thoughts

I had never heard of lynching reenactments before, and to see these people bringing them to life heartened me. Black and white people were working together to make sure injustices were never forgotten. And for a few frames in the film, it looked like different racial groups were healing the divide between them.

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Light of My Life (2019) Review