A young Harlem woman struggles with pregnancy after
her boyfriend is falsely accused of rape and imprisoned.
If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)
Written and Directed by Barry Jenkins
Starring KiKi Layne, Stephan James, Regina King, Colman Domingo, Teyonah Parris, Michael Beach, Aunjanue Ellis,
Diego Luna, Finn Witrock, Ed Skrein, Emily Rios, Pedro Pascal
Based on the novel by James Baldwin
If Beale Street Could Talk is a moving depiction of realistic circumstances and a love story in every sense of the word. The film gives us a snapshot of Harlem in the early 1970's, where a black couple struggle to make ends meet and find a place to start a family. Tish and Fonny are lifelong friends who've just realized their love for each other, but when Fonny is jailed for a crime he didn't commit, their love is tested just as Tish learns she's pregnant with his child. It's a harrowing story with many emotional moments that may not be as passionate as Barry Jenkins's Moonlight, but still stands on its own as a worthy follow-up.
The performances take center stage, with KiKi Layne and Stephan James delivering emotionally-charged performances as Tish and Fonny that I believed every second of. Regina King stands out as Tish's mother Sharon, who goes to great lengths to try and secure Fonny's release from jail. Overall, every performance was pure gold and rounds out a solid ensemble. I must also praise Nicholas Britell's subtle but powerful score, which enhanced the feelings of fear, love, and uncertainty that Tish feels while dealing with the most important moment of her life without the man she loves by her side.
As I said before, If Beale Street Could Talk is not as passionate as Moonlight, but it still holds true to the same themes of identity, loss, and societal struggle. My only real issue with the film is the ending, which I learned is different from Baldwin's novel (which regrettably I have not read). The ending feels forced and very Hollywood, almost like it was tacked on at the last minute in order to capture a single moment of pure happiness for the characters. I think leaving it open-ended would've been better, but I digress. The film is still very good and worth watching.