"If Beale Street Could Talk" (2018) is an adaptation of the James Baldwin novel starring Kiki Layne, Stephan James and Regina King. The film is written and directed by Barry Jenkins. It is the story of two childhood friends who fall in love and attempt to start a life together. Tish Rivers (KiKi Layne) and Alonzo 'Fonny' Hunt (Stephan James) are very much in love. Misfortune befalls Alonzo 'Fonny' (Stephan James) as he is accused of a crime that he didn't commit.
I was so excited to view this film. When I first saw the trailer several months ago I made sure to mark my calendar. Barry Jenkins is a genius. There is so much beauty in this film as it showcases this American family's experience. Jenkins could not have received a better cast to work with; KiKi Layne, Stephan James, Regina King, Colman Domingo and Teyonah Parris are simply amazing on screen. The chemistry is evident and the performances are full of truth.
KiKi Layne, "If Beale Street Could Talk" (2018).
Let me tell you, the story centers around the relationship between Tish and Fonny! It is a match made in heaven for this onscreen couple. The warmth and radiant beauty of black love is ever present here and I found it to be quite mesmerizing. From the opening sequence to the very last scene we are treated with several gazes into the camera from these two stars as they constantly stare at one another and the audience gets an intimate perspective their blossoming courtship. The framing and lighting of these shots are extraordinary and much appreciated. We are given a rich and detailed point-of-view of how it might look to view someone with the utmost respect and compassion. The lens tells the story quite well.
Cinematographer James Laxton of Moonlight (2016) fame gives us more of his mastery as he uses the camera as his paint brush. For me this film was a two hour work of art that shows the majestic beauty of vivid coloring and lighting to capture perfect shots in this masterpiece. Laxton's camera work coupled with Jenkins direction make for a fulfilling and honest portrait of a black family's journey as they try and help Fonny get freed from prison while supporting Tish until his release. I hope this director and cinematographer's relationship continues to grow on a level not unlike Director Christopher Nolan, "Inception" (2010) and his Cinematographer Wally Pfister "Transcendence" (2014) who, together made several brilliantly shot films together!
KiKi Layne and Stephan James, "If Beale Street Could Talk" (2018).
I was in absolute awe of everyone's performance. We are treated to an unfiltered look at an American family's love for one another in these timeless performances. Everyone of Tish's family members were supportive and non-judgmental of her and Fonny's plight. Fonny, like so many, suffers at the hands of injustice and Tish's family does everything in their power to help him. This represents so many families that stick to together to make the best of difficult times.
The beautiful score is provided by Academy Award-nominated composer Nicholas Britell of "The Big Short (2015) and "Succession" (2018) fame! Britell's music coupled with the the well paced editing, help to round off a fulfilling and educational cinematic experience.
All elements were used properly to bring this project to life and I want to say "Hats off" to Jenkins and his team for providing us new treasure to add to the Black American's Cinematic Library.
"If Beale Street Could Talk" (2018) is only playing at these locations in the Detroit metropolitan area:
Landmark Main Art Theatre
118 North Main Street, Royal Oak MI 48067 | (248) 542-5198
The Riviera Cinema
30170 Grand River Avenue, Farmington MI 48336 | (248) 788-6572
Please catch in theatres if you can for the full cinematic experience!
Have a blessed and Happy New Year!