African-American teen sweethearts Fonny (Stephan James) and Tish (Kiki Layne) 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 (Teyonah Parris), mother Sharon (Regina King) and future mother-in-law (Aunjanue Ellis). Directed by Barry Jenkins. Based on James Baldwin's novel of the same name.~Kaitlin Elise Miller
Barry Jenkins cements his directorial style with “If Beale Street Could Talk”. There is a lot of lush romance that feels so lyrical on the top with a lot of despair and sadness underneath. It truly is a work of art and one of the best films of 2018.
The film is one of the best casted of the year. Stephan James is soulful and passionate. KiKi Layne is fantastic. She is strong while facing so much adversity. It’s a wonderful performance. Regina King has a few really strong scenes and is absolutely giving us an Oscar worthy performance. Jenkins’ camera close-ups really favor her. Brian Tyree Henry is a marvel. He shows up briefly and delivers a wonderful monologue that gives you the chills and again the camera lingers on his face. The rest of the cast is up to the task. Jenkins brilliantly cast well known actors in smaller roles that kind of flip the script on their personas. “Beale Street” truly has one of the best ensembles.
Jenkins again teams up with James Laxton (Moonlight) to handle the cinematography. Jenkins and Laxton perfect the close-up. The faces and camera movements are one of the best things about the film. The filming style is bold and elegant. It’s incredible. Another great re-teaming is composer, Nicholas Britell (also of Moonlight) who in my opinion makes the finest score of the year. It’s a score laden with sweeping melodies that bring those already lush scenes crafted by Jenkins to life.
“If Beale Street Could Talk” is a fantastic adaptation and he succeeds in letting James Baldwin truly live and breathe in this work. It let’s love and righteous anger triumph.
Barry Jenkins' adaptation of the great African American writer James Baldwin's 1974 novel slow burns a tragic romance with the social injustice that is still so much a part of life in this country. Jenkins explored black gay life in his Oscar winning film "Moonlight"; that film was a poetic, dreamy mosaic of a young man's emerging sexuality. This one tells a more conventional narrative of two young lovers, Fonny and Tish, who try to navigate both the city of New York and their families when Tish gets pregnant about the same time Fonny is framed for a crime he didn't commit. Regina King won an Oscar for Supporting Actress as Tish's mother, a warrior who fights to keep her daughter's dreams alive and win Fonny's release from prison. Stephan James and KiKi Layne star as Fonny and Tish who learn some hard truths about being black in America. This is heavy drama, well-acted and observant.