If Beale St. Could talk

Following on from Moonlight is no mean feat. The beautifully touching, Oscar-winning show following a young man’s journey through childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, and learning his self and his relationship with that self, was a sensation.

Therefore, when If Beale St Could Talk was announced, a cinematic adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel of the same name, with Barry Jenkins at the helm, one couldn’t help but to be excited by the prospect. Hearing him be interviewed about the project, and its importance to him, only helped to increase ones anticipation.

As a piece of art, it is, as was moonlight, a masterpiece. The cinematography is soft and thoughtful, with incredibly careful lighting, and some beautiful colour schemes, making the most of yellows (one scene in particular was so beautiful it bought me to tears), blues and reds, along with the murky darkness in the basement flat helping to add to the sense of struggle these people faced in their daily lives.

The story itself is magical, and the way that Barry Jenkins cuts different time frames effortlessly together, giving a non-chronological, but wonderfully intriguing and easy to follow, background to the prior plights and histories of the characters, their relationships with themselves, and the events leading up to Fonny’s incarceration. Jenkins has done a remarkable job of making a film, set in one era, which is profoundly affecting and accessible in this day and age, with similarly pressing themes such as institutionalised racism, and false imprisonment playing out in the forefront. Combining the magical direction of Jenkins with some truly believable and mesmerising central performances, in particular the 3 main performances by Kiki Lane, Stephan James, and the Oscar-nominated Regina King, and backed up by a host of sublime supporting actors (I’m yet to see Brian Tyree Henry put in a performance that is anything less than enthralling), the final product is a profound, touching, and, quite simply, beautiful piece, which I’m sure would have done Mr Baldwin proud (important to note that the Baldwin estate’s support in the process, with Baldwin’s family offering Jenkins annotated writings of Baldwin’s, with his ideas of how it could be adapted to the screen).

I left the cinema positively in tears. The beauty and strength of the relationships reminded me of the strength of my own personal relationships, and that is one of the film’s strongest characteristics. It has this magical way of making one feel engaged and involved in the film, the characters, and their struggles along the way. There is a scene with Regina King’s character in Puerto Rico, trying to talk with Ms Rogers, Fonny’s accuser, at which point one realises any hope in saving him from incarceration vanishes, and the raw emotion on screen is chilling. But with the story as positively negative as it could be perceived to be, there are so many moments of joy, hope, and brightness, that ultimately one leaves caring for each character, in each of their predicament, and proud that they have made their situation work to the best of their abilities.

Definitely go see it with a loved one, and leave feeling more grateful and appreciative of every moment that you get to spend with them.

Beautiful Boy

Tonight Odeon had something they call ‘screen unseen’. In essence, what this is, is a surprise screening of an upcoming film, that they believe it’ll be a 5* future classic. The intrigue that accompanies this (combined with the fact the tickets were almost 1/2 price a regular ticket) encouraged me to explore this avenue tonight. And I’m glad that I did. 

However, I have to begin by mentioning that I’m not entirely sure why I’m quite so glad. There wasn’t a great deal in the film that I found involving or engaging, I don’t necessarily feel like connected to the 2 main characters (a surprise as a Father-Son relationship as a subject of a film typically makes me weep), and I really don’t feel that, given the subject matter, there was enough emotional exploration of either the 2 leads. But I did find myself still glued to my seat as Timothée Chalamet recited Charles Bukowski to close the end Credits. 

This is a complicated film. There  is so much that is right, and works about it. The film couldn’t be more timely, as the closing sequence explains, with Drug Addiction affecting more people, both directly and indirectly, in the US than, I believe, ever before. The cast was fantastic, and they evidently have chemistry with each other, as the family relationships are, to a broad extent, very believable. The film is also shot beautifully, for the most part, however there is a reasonable amount of period hopping, which at times  work as, I guess, exposition, however at other times I felt they were distracting and made me temporary lose track. 

The focal issue that I have with the film is that, overwhelmingly, I didn’t experience quite as a film that feels complete. It felt as though a bit more cutting was necessary (while only a 2-hour running time, I did find myself wondering about the time one a couple of occasions), and particularly it felt as though we were seeing the same thing, done in a very similar way, on a number of occasions. This being said, as an adaptation of books written by the lead characters, this is surely just in keeping with the real events.

There were also scenes that felt unnecessary. One scene in particular, between his endless research on the topic of the chemicals Nic (Timothée Chalamet) was putting in his body, David Sheff (Steve Carrell), maybe for research (who knows really) decides to engage in a similar activity. This is not mentioned, or even alluded to, again for the rest of the movie. Is this scene necessary? Perhaps one could interpret this as an expression of a Father’s desperation to understand his son, but frankly, I don’t understand its purpose in the film. 

As I say, contrary to my above criticisms, I did leave glad that I had seen it. Perhaps it was the timely, real-life story. Perhaps it was the cinematography. Perhaps it was the music. Probably it is because it is the story of a family’s struggles, and in particular the strain that addiction and distance can cause on them (and, of course, as I mentioned before, the always affecting Father-Son focus), so for all my misgivings and reservations for the film, I actually ended up rather enjoying it.