IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK (2018)

if-beale-street-could-talk

Written & Directed By: Barry Jenkins
Based on the Novel By: James Baldwin
Cinematography: James Laxton
Editor: Joi McMillon & Nat Sanders
Music By: Nicholas Britell 


Cast: Stephen James, KiKi Layne, Regina King, Michael Beach, Teyonah Parris, Colman Domingo, Aunjaune Ellis, Diego Luna, Dave Franco, Brian Tyree Henry, Ed Skrein, Emily Rios, Finn Wittrock, Ebony Obsidian 


African-American teen sweethearts Fonny and Tish are ripped apart when Fonny is wrongly arrested for the rape of a Puerto Rican woman because of the machinations of a racist cop. While seeking justice for Fonny, a pregnant Tish relies on her Harlem community, including her sister, mother Sharon and future mother-in-law.

I will admit this isn’t a movie I loved the first time I watched it in a theater. It always sat with me heavily and made me think. It has grown in my mind. As well as figure it out in my own mind, but in time I have watched it again and can now see some of what I might have missed the first time but admire it more for what it is and it’s creation. Like a painting the more you look at it and study it the more you see to appreciate. Though even from the beginning you could tell it was different and something special.

The film feels Regal and majestic like a masterpiece already. As it unfolds it feels passionate tried and true yet enriched but not as stuffy as this feels more alive. A true romance and love story that you can feel tied to domestic tragedy, race and that doesn’t reach all the depths of the book but the love story stays essential.

It keeps that at the center amongst the hardships which you get a taste of but not overwhelmed with where it becomes all that the story becomes indignities. It Feels so honest, not usually presented this clean and open. Seeing an African American story on the big screen treated more regally is a delight.

It feels like audiences abandoned it as it offered representation But was more a period piece with some of the same issues still faced by a community. Though lesser presented not as fatalistic as usual and with a bit more glory then usually shown. Yet it seems like the film never quite caught on with Audiences and was left holding the bag when it came to the Oscars where this film feels it should have been a natural for. Only one clear cut villain who feels more a lurking phantom, but sets everything up for ruin. Even if in the end he is more of a minor character. Like the time it is set in and immerses everything and everyone making them feel enhanced and enchanted to a degree. As it keeps the film vivid and lived in through and through and fully spirited, polished.

It feels like the film people expected director Spike Lee to make some day. Only Writer/Director Barry Jenkins bested him to it and is more subtle with his messages and chooses to illustrate them more as part of the background not as on your face or as angry. Similarly it does try to paint a picture of a culture and community but doesn’t Exactly try to examine or dissect. So that we get to observe and experience as it happens. It doesn’t feel like the film is part of any activism. Though it does feel like a instant classic.

Not as experimental as his previous film. This feels more nostalgic and dipped into classical and expressive filmmaking. Where every shot, angle, color and art direction is closely considered and designed.

A movie that always seems to have a sweet spot. Where there is a clam and hope prevails even as we watch tragedy befall.

The score by Nicholas Britell is magical and nostalgic going into the romantic moods and dramatic moments so that it all mixes together to make a great meal. Almost it’s own jazz record. It’s truly a thing of beauty along with the filmmaking you could take all the dialogue out and make this virtually a silent film and it would still be as romantic, dramatic and powerful.

It reminds one of the film IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE with it’s long takes and the air of romanticism in the eyes of the main characters as they look at one another and the longing when they are apart from one another. Everything about this film breathes passion The film is made more in the style of a classic romance. With the many issues and people trying to tear them apart even his family who disapprove of their union them showing a self hatred of race and their own classism.

The main characters are a young couple just starting out in the real world flashbacks showing how they have always been their for One another. Stephen James comes a long way from the movie RACE Here he was almost unrecognizable seems to have morphed into a different look and much more deeper soulful performance.

The Family pregnancy reveal scene is shocking yet riveting. The most graphic and actually violent scene of the entire movie. Each character gets there point of view and are never made out to be villains or truly wrong on their estimation completely except for the racist cop. They also all get a shot in profile that tries to capture their character in the everyday.

Everyone gives a natural performance yet Regina King’s seems more determined, strong as she seeks to protect, nurture and save This film is a rare treat to behold and deserves your attention. As it is what most lovers of cinema are looking for. Emotional and romantic that makes you fall in love with it.

Grade: A

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