“If Beale Street Could Talk” stars KiKi Layne, Stephan James, Colman Domingo, Teyonah Parris, Brian Tyree Henry, and Regina King. Released on December 14, 2018, the film is about a woman who seeks to clear her husband’s name when he is charged for a crime he didn’t commit.
The film is written and directed by Barry Jenkins, who also wrote and directed “Medicine for Melancholy” and “Moonlight”. It is based on the 1974 novel of the same name by James Baldwin. Remember when I said that “Vice” will be my last award contender before the Golden Globes air? Well, it’s exactly what I figured until I found out that this film was playing at one of my closest cinemas. So, this will be the last award contender I’ll be talking about before the Golden Globes. I’m being honest right now. This is really it. After earning a Best Picture Oscar win for his last film, Jenkins returns to the director’s chair to make another piece of cinematic art. If you’re wondering why I didn’t get to this film sooner, let me remind you once again that I have my limits when it comes to going to a specific cinema to see a specific movie. Despite not knowing much about Baldwin’s novel, I was looking forward to seeing it because of Barry Jenkins’ involvement. His last film, “Moonlight”, made a really strong first impression for me in terms of his passionate storytelling and direction, so I was hoping that his latest drama will give me that same reaction. After finally watching it for myself, it’s safe for me to say that Jenkins may have a confident future on his hands both as a director and as a writer.
While the film is easily classified as a romance drama, it didn’t follow the classic formula that we’ve seen multiple times. It started off with a couple already in love with one another and the husband (James) already behind bars. One thing you should know about this film is that it’s not like the other Hollywood romance films that have happy endings. It’s a film about life and how its obstacles can bring people down, and fortunately, Jenkins understood this topic. From what I can gather from the film, the story is more than just a woman and her family trying to prove her husband’s innocence. It’s about love overpowering racial injustice. Even if things don’t go the way we wanted or if someone is being racist to others, love is strong enough to connect us all. If that’s the case, then this is a pretty bold way of expressing it. In this day and age, I can clearly tell that Barry Jenkins really wanted to tell this type of story to his audience in a visual and emotional way, and while it didn’t reach the same levels as “Moonlight”, it’s still a well-deserved passion project from the talented writer/director. Both Layne and James delivered some great performances together as Tish and Fonny, respectively. They’re basically the peanut butter and jelly that hold the two breads together, crafting a satisfying sandwich for their starving lovebirds. Even though they didn’t top Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga from “A Star Is Born” for “Best Onscreen Couple of 2018”, Layne and James offered enough heart and chemistry in their roles to make me hope for a better future for them. Regina King also did a really good job in her role as Tish’s mother. I won’t be surprised if she wins some major awards for her performance. The cinematography was also quite impressive in emphasizing the emotion and style, and the musical score by Nicholas Britell was nothing but relaxing and graceful. As for its flaws, the film did suffer a little bit from a couple of drawn-out sequences. I can understand that they’re necessary to emphasize the filmmaking style, but in terms of the pacing, they don’t need to be that long for the sake of the audience that may be on the verge of falling asleep or crying.
Overall, “If Beale Street Could Talk” is a divine and inspiring love story that showcases Barry Jenkins’ splendid talent in filmmaking. Despite a couple of scenes that overstayed their welcome, the film has enough passion and heart to express its fascinating cast and well-written story. This is another film that people should know about, especially during a time when we are still dealing with racism. If it’s playing at a theater near you, it’s worth checking out.