Title – If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)
Director – Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)
Cast – KiKi Layne, Stephan James, Regina Hall, Colman Domingo, Brian Tyree Henry
Plot – Young Harlem based couple Tish (Layne) and Fonny (James) find themselves torn apart when Fonny is accused of a vicious home invasion and imprisoned during early 1970.
“If you trusted love this far, don’t panic now. Trust it all the way”
Review by Eddie on 18/02/2019
The most important thing to note about If Beale Street Could Talk, director Barry Jenkins eagerly awaited follow-up to his Oscar winning Moonlight, is that it’s a very fine film but there’s also a certain something (although hard to pin down) that is missing that would’ve made it a genuine classic, and arguably the film some had unfairly expected it to be before even seeing the final product.
Beautifully filmed by Jenkins and his DOP James Laxton, majestically scored by Nicholas Britell, thoughtfully adapted from James Baldwin’s revered novel of the same name by Jenkins and well-played by its principal cast, Beale Street is a very polished product but it lacks the magic that makes these type of drama’s transcend into something genuinely unforgettable.
Largely ignored during this year’s awards run, which is surprising considering the subject matter and Jenkin’s ever growing reputation, Beale Street’s tale of KiKi Layne’s Tish Rivers and Stephen James’s Alonzo Hunt, who from a young age have been destined to be together only to find themselves separated before the birth of their first child due to the fact Alonzo has been unfairly incarcerated over a violent home invasion, is a quietly moving tale that has a somber and humanly realistic touch.
As with Moonlight, Beale Street is like a picture come to life with Jenkins bringing 1970’s Harlem to life in a non-showy but engaging way, while the relationship between Tish and Alonzo is thoughtfully examined, including a number of hauntingly raw close ups and day to day occurrences that transcend to a higher level thanks to Jenkin’s sensibilities.
The problem with Beale Street, whilst small, is that for all its good intentions and moments of power, there’s a sense that by the time the credits begin to roll there was something more that could’ve been mined from Baldwin’s original text. Whether this is more time building the relationship between Tish and Alonzo before their problems arise or more “big” story moments is up for debate but there’s unquestionably something missing from an otherwise wonderful cinematic package.
There will likely be many that are somewhat disappointed by proceedings come the final scene, some may even feel that Beale Street’s two hour run-time is dedicated to a lot of nothing in particular and while that’s not the case, the film wouldn’t of suffered from more big moments that could’ve simple meant more showpiece moments for its able and talented cast.
Final Say –
Just as well-made as Jenkin’s much-loved Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk is another fine entry into Jenkins still young filmography but there is a certain something missing here that would’ve made this tale of unfortunate lovers one of 2018’s very best and the film to beat at this years Oscars.
4 invisible fridges out of 5