If Beale Street Could Talk is Barry Jenkins follow-up to the widely successful Moonlight from a couple years ago. It’s safe to say Jenkins has done it again with this love story between intercity youth and young adult. Based on James Baldwin’s 1960’s-set novel, racial tensions inevitably arise and the combination of such settings brings a familiar feeling with Jenkins and that is much more helpful when trying to adapt this book into a movie.
Stephen James and KiKi Lane portray the two leads in this film. Tish and Fonny have a beautiful romance and they are set to get married when a tragedy happens and mistaken identity is turned into real life imprisonment. Tish goes to prison to inform Fonny that she is having his child which is happy yet unfortunate news. With women’s intuition, Trish’s mother, played by Regina King, and her sister figure out that she’s pregnant. The question is how are they going to break this news to her father, portrayed by Colman Domingo. Inevitably, as each family members brings forward their wisdom to Tish, the movie begins to evolve.
Jenkins adapts this material with a fine-tooth comb. He uses the camera to its fullest potential. Close-up shots of characters faces show the emotions that they are all going through. Everybody smoked in the 60’s and the smoke is like a character in the film it shows the depth of the background and foreground of the shots that Jenkins is trying to capture. These days romantic films are hard to come by because nobody knows how to tell a true romance. After Moonlight, thinking about this material, Jenkins was the perfect person to adapt it.
Set during the tumultuous times of the segregation era of America, this great character work by all of the actors involved and great cinematography show the very specific world that these people lived in. The soundtrack is one of the best of the year as well. Knowing that this is not going to be a story for everybody, Jenkins still managed to capture the love and care of everyone within the film even though it’s a difficult story to watch. He has found a niche that a lot of directors haven’t yet found, capturing romance and love.
If Beale Street Could Talk is one of the best films of the year. Everybody in the film does the best job that they can to bring this material to the big screen. I believe Regina King does a great job but, I don’t think it’s an Academy Award-worthy performance. Jenkins will make another film and we’ll all think the same way of it as we have If Beale Street Could Talk and Moonlight. We are all blessed to be able to witness such artistry at work. I cannot wait to see what he has in store for us next. Until then, I might give this another watch just to absorb it a little bit more.
The Verdict – 4.5 out of 5 Stars