If Beale Street Could Talk
KiKi Layne, Stephan James, Regina King, Colman Domingo, Teyonah Parris
“When I was growing up, I was trying to make a connection. Between the life I saw, and the life I lived. There are days when you wonder what your role is, in this country – and what your future is in it.”
Barry Jenkins’ follow-up to his magnificent, ground-breaking, Oscar Best Picture-winning Moonlight (2016) is this exquisite romantic drama based on James Baldwin’s novel of the same name.
Moving back and forth through time, we meet Tish (newcomer KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James), lovers in ‘70s Manhattan, whose bond is tested when Fonny is falsely accused of a crime. As he awaits trial, Tish tries desperately to get him released while her mother (a heartbreaking performance by Regina King) must decide how far she will go to secure her daughter’s future.
Like Moonlight, it’s emotionally devastating, almost overwhelmingly so; focused not just on the characters’ relationships with each other but also with their haunting interior lives and the spaces in between. In this way Jenkins creates a feeling of lived experience, not merely telling a love story but viscerally elucidating the emotional costs of survival as a black person in America in a way that feels true to Baldwin’s bitter wisdom.
It’s a dazzling, searing, courageous film, that contains and offers multitudes; Jenkins adding to the pantheon of black cinema with something celebratory – a lyrical story of joy, of community and love – even as he documents pain. Unmissable.