If Beale Street Could Talk review – Beautiful Optimism in Injustice

Barry Jenkins’ followup to the oscar winning ‘Moonlight’ drags along a weight of expectation, after two years he has returned with this charming-yet-necessary film adapted from James Baldwin’s novel.

We follow Tish (KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James), two destined lovers whose worlds are rocked upside down in a revelation so shocking. Tish finds out she is pregnant and in a combined family effort we see them attempt to get Fonny out of prison, which he accused of a crime falsely.

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The film has sequences of pure anguish for the spectator, in that this film tackles racism in America and corruption with Jenkins using photographs and narration in a most magnificent way. But aside from that the film is remarkably romantic and oozes a glowing warmth. Their is a strong focus of the family aspect in the narrative, boasting a standout performance from Regina King as Sharon Rivers to which she may get a nomination this season. Additionally, the shifts in narrative allows us to understand and really forge that connection with their situation.

Jenkins’ dedication to bringing the smallest of moments to prominence is clear with the nuanced expressions of how important a character’s stare or posture is like in engaging and connecting everyone. The direction from Jenkins is the clear standout, with the cinematography using depth of field to the greatest of uses portraying that sense of being their with the characters to a whole new level – the framing of each and every scene is done with clear purpose and confidence.

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An element of rage and anger is cemented and Jenkin’s does not hold back as his connection to the material is clear, voicing a message as in this story Fonny is the victim of racism and a broken crime system with all the injustice of the time in society however there remains a shining brightness in its way of trying to restore what was once real.

The film has a strong connection to music, with Jenkins’ choice of song creating a feeling in the happenings on screen. Their is a lyricism to the film in which the music is perfectly timed, enhancing the romance and perhaps melancholic feel that is ever present even in the most dire times. Each individual frame creates a deeper connection in the softness of the way the scenes are shot with the careful use of placement and distance from the actors.

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Each character is beautifully calculated and measured in their actions, which all in the end no matter how good or bad leads back to this centre idea of fighting injustice but staying calm and optimistic.

From a filmmaker so bold and artfully talented, this film is a clear standout and will be in talks for Awards Season this coming year. The film’s aspiring connection to love will move you without a doubt, perhaps to tears in Jenkins’ tragic romance.

4/5

Ben Rolph

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