For her towering performance in writer-director Chinonye Chukwu‘s haunting drama Clemency, Oscar-nominated actress Alfre Woodard has been tipped as a potential contender in the upcoming awards race — and, after watching EW’s exclusive trailer for the film, it’s easy to see why.
The 66-year-old Cross Creek and Lion King star leads the deeply moving film with a towering performance as Bernadine Williams, an insomniac prison warden grappling with the emotional trauma of facilitating years of executions while working on death row.
Though Bernadine admittedly values the lives she’s tasked with ending, the story of one prisoner, Anthony Woods (Aldis Hodge), pushes her psyche to the limit, as Woods’ determined lawyer (Richard Schiff) fights to prove his innocence in an emotional series of events that leaves Bernadine questioning her duties to herself and her work.
“I give these men respect, all the way through,” Woodard says in the clip before a shot of her climbing into a lethal injection chair as tears well in her eyes flashes onscreen, while another shows her arguing with her husband (Wendell Pierce), whose relationship with his wife frays as her mental state slowly unravels. “You can’t understand,” she continues. “You can’t know what it’s like. I am alone.”
Following its world premiere in January at the Sundance Film Festival (where it won the Grand Jury Prize), Clemency recently screened at the Toronto International Film Festival as well, where Woodard similarly garnered career-best reviews from critics.
Neon will release Clemency — also starring Orange Is the New Black‘s Danielle Brooks as Anthony’s estranged partner — on Dec. 27. Ahead of its theatrical bow, check out EW’s exclusive trailer of the film above, and see the film’s new poster below.