Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Movie with Abe: If Beale Street Could Talk

If Beale Street Could Talk
Directed by Barry Jenkins
Released December 14, 2018

Being black in America can define a person’s daily experiences in a way that this reviewer could never hope to understand. The lack of diversity within Hollywood and the underrepresentation of black people in front of and behind the camera has been spotlighted lately, in a hopeful start towards progress. Films that tell uniquely black stories don’t always achieve prominence, but two years ago, Barry Jenkins made “Moonlight,” which ultimately won the Oscar for Best Picture. Jenkins’ follow-up is an equally passionate and moving film, one with a very different kind of story to tell.

Tish (Kiki Layne) and Alonzo Hunt (Stephan James), better known as Fonny, have known each other all their lives. Their friendship eventually turns into a romance, one that is interrupted just after they find an apartment together when Fonny is arrested for a rape that he did not commit. When Tish learns that she is pregnant, her parents, Sharon (Regina King) and Joseph (Colman Domingo), embrace the new life that will soon enter the world, doing everything they can to help prove Fonny’s innocence so that their children can be reunited to start a family of their own.

There is a marvelous intimacy that exists in this film. Every time Tish and Fonny look at each other, the multitude of experiences they have shared over their lives come flooding back and are conveyed through the passion they feel. The families that raised them also have an incredible chance to shine in an early scene that finds them discussing the news that will bring them together in more than friendship. These people all feel so real even though their interactions have a magical, dreamlike quality to them, representative of others like them but genuine and individual at the same time.

This film introduces itself with a quote from James Baldwin, who wrote the book of the same name on which this film is based, explaining the significance of its title. This works as a love story and as an embodiment of a culture that must so often fight for its very survival. Its vibrant costumes by Caroline Eselin, moving cinematography by James Laxton, and heartfelt musical score by Nicholas Britell add to a terrific ensemble led by Layne and James with considerable support from King, Domingo, and its other with players in small roles. This is an affecting and powerful film, one that truly invites audiences into its perspective of the world.


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