By Mark Saldana
Rating: 4 (Out of 4 Stars)
Based on the acclaimed novel by James Baldwin, this movie offers a fictionalized take on the African-American experience during the 1970s. Still, this is a story that reflects the real injustices and turmoil that Black Americans went through during the aftermath of the Civil Rights movement. Written and directed by Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), If Beale Street Could Talk tells a beautiful, but devastating love story between a loving and sensitive artist and his shy and humble girlfriend. Jenkins’s gorgeous direction, along with the performances by the cast make this movie one of the best films of the year and also a timeless classic.
Though Tish Rivers (Kiki Layne) and Fonny Hunt (Stephan James) have known each other most of their lives, the two have begun to develop romantic feelings for one another. As their relationship blossoms into full-on love, the two begin to plan their future together. This future, however, gets interrupted when Fonny gets falsely accused of rape and arrested. As Tish and both families, fight to save Fonny, they realize that they’re battling a cruel, unjust and racist system.
With If Beale Street Could Talk, Barry Jenkins has made another tremendous film that beautifully presents this heartbreaking love story. With gorgeous cinematography by James Laxton and a lovely score by Nicholas Britell, Jenkins has created a wonderfully realized and crafted take on Baldwin’s story. The experience is totally captivating, enchanting, but also compelling and sad. Jenkins’s amazing cast delivers superb work and certainly flesh out the story well.
Both Kiki Layne and Stephan James are both amazing in their roles. The two young actors share a beautiful and credible romantic chemistry. Regina King co-stars as Tish’s mother Sharon and gives a powerful and charismatic turn in the role. The movie also can boast stellar work by Colman Domingo, Teyonah Parris, Emily Rios, Michael Beach, and Aunjanue Harris.
I feel that this film is definitely one of the year’s best offerings and has a great chance of winning some awards. It has already received a couple of Golden Globe nominations and has a good shot at receiving some Oscar nods. It is a lovely film I must highly recommend, but one that might require a box of tissues for viewing.