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.