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If Beale Street Could Talk (A PopEntertainment.com Movie Review)

If Beale Street Could Talk


Starring KiKi Layne, Stephan James, Regina King, Colman Domingo, Teyonah Parris, Michael Beach, Aunjanue Ellis, Dave Franco, Diego Luna, Pedro Pascal, Emily Rios, Ed Skrein, Finn Wittrock, Brian Tyree Henry, Ebony Obsidian, Dominique Thorne, Bobby Conte Thornton, Marcia Jean Kurtz, Ethan Barrett and Milanni Mines.

Screenplay by Barry Jenkins.

Directed by Barry Jenkins.

Distributed by Annapurna Pictures. 117 minutes. Rated R.

Poetry. I stood up after watching If Beale Street Could Talk feeling like I had witnessed a film that embodied poetry. A crazy fete since the storyline follows a young black couple and their family maneuvering through the 1960’s justice system after a false accusation of rape.

Admittedly, the novel is currently sitting on my bedside table, unread but at the top of my queue. I’ve read work by James Baldwin before and it was ripe with emotion and detailed imagery. Director and Screenwriter Barry Jenkins has paid tribute to Baldwin’s style in his adaptation of If Beale Street Could Talk, with his attention to every detail in the film’s dialogue, pacing, cinematography, and overall aesthetic.

I had the opportunity to first watch If Beale Street Could Talk at the 2018 Philadelphia Film Festival, where I had ranked it in my top favorite films of the Festival. It also garnered the top place in my Holiday film viewing line up as I grabbed family and friends for my second viewing on the Christmas Eve. We unanimously walked out of the film with a lasting impression of its beauty, despite its difficult subject matter. Or maybe because even the difficult to watch moments were seen through the lens of love.

This is a film about not only about first love, but enduring love. Best friends since childhood, 19-year-old Tish (played by the youthful KiKi Layne) and 22-year-old Fonny (played by Stephan James) grew up together without shame.

Through Tish’s narration, we learn about when she realized they had fallen in love, the challenges of starting out, and the shared pain of his incarceration for questionable reasons. The pair of characters is so well developed and so enmeshed in one another that you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, beyond the impossible logistics of the rape accusation, that Fonny is not a man who would not betray the life that he was building with Tish.

There are so many noteworthy scenes in If Beale Street Could Talk, scenes full of strength and character dynamics. Scenes that jump from drama to dark comedy back to drama in an instant. The film follows through on most of its characters, telling complete stories that leave you fulfilled.

Regina Hall plays fierce matriarch, Sharon. She steals every scene that she is in with her portrayal of Tish’s mother. When scared Tish first confides in Sharon that she is pregnant, it takes only one look from Hall to get that she already knows before Tish’s disclosure.

She’ll be the one to soften the blow to husband, Joseph (played by Colman Domingo) by opening the good Hennessy. She then helps Tish to stand up to Fonny’s bible thumping, judgmental and angry family when the pregnancy is shared with them.  She is also the family representative sent to plead with Fonny’s accuser to see if she can help vindicate the father of her soon to arrive grandchild.

With its beautiful aesthetics, cinematography, superb character development and poetic screenplay, it is no wonder why If Beale Street Could Talk has been nominated for numerous awards for the upcoming awards season. I hope that the film reaches a wide audience to share this poignant, relevant, and powerful story.

Bonnie Paul

Copyright ©2018 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: December 26, 2018.

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