Quick Hit: A beautiful portrait of race relations and young love.
Barry Jenkins exploded onto the scene with the Best Picture winning Moonlight two years ago. In it, he painted a chronological picture of a gay black man as he went through several phases of life. In it, he showcased a poetic, colorful style of filmmaking. He continues that in If Beale Street Could Talk, a film adaptation of James Baldwin’s book of the same name.
Tish (Kiki Layne) is in love with Fonny (Stephan James). Their love is slow but beautiful, giving a total picture of their relationship, and that of their family’s reaction – particularly when the audience discovers that Tish is pregnant. It’s not an unwanted pregnancy, but it is a surprise, and complications arise when Fonny is arrested for a crime that it was impossible for him to commit, geographically at least. This means that the film spins off in a way that shows the Rivers family attempting to exonerate Fonny for the crime her never committed.
Jenkins tells the story in a way that radiates out from the center of the story and moving backwards and forwards in time to tell it. It’s an interesting choice that may have sprung from the novel, but it allows a lot of surprise and intrigue to build with the story. I’d also like to highlight Jenkins’ continued use of color within the film. Outfits and costumes are there to reflect the colors that Jenkins has chosen to reflect mode, and bright greens and yellows abound throughout the film, particularly reminiscent of Moonlight’s use of the color blue.
There are a lot of great performances in this one, but Regina King holds titanic over them all as Sharon Rivers. Her performance inspires other great reactions, but she continually holds the emotion in the scene. It’s an amazing performance that stands apart, and she was well deserving of the Best Supporting Actress she received on Sunday.
Overall, it’s a well-crafted film. I’m giving it a “B+”.
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"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"