If Beale Street Could Talk – Movie Review

Barry Jenkins, the director of 2017’s Academy Award winner for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay (Moonlight) brings us another Oscar contender dripping in more black excellence and black love. This 3x Academy Award nominated film is a beautiful and unapologetically black story set in a place that is said to be the soulful hub and birthplace of black culture in America. It is a love story, not just between a man and a woman but between a young black woman and her family. The affection and unconditional support that they express for one another is heartwarming and inspiring. 

The dramatic acting in this movie is stellar. It definitely earns all of its Oscar nominations, with actors that skilfully draw us into the characters, making us feel the weight of their emotional journeys.

It’s also shot and edited so beautifully, with a storyline that goes back and forth between the present storyline and the past, which gives us insight into their relationship and the events leading up to the present situation. Non-linear plots like this are the reason I love movies like Pulp-Fiction and the Social Network (not as romantic as Beale Street, but super engaging nonetheless). 

KiKi Layne as Tish and Stephan James as Fonny star in Barry Jenkins’ IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK, an Annapurna Pictures release.

In this romantic drama, adapted from James Baldwin’s eloquent 1974 novel, Tish battles the oppressive system which has wrongfully imprisoned her husband-to-be, Alonzo ‘Fonny’ Hunt, for a crime which he did not commit. The film deals with the passion and trust that have connected her and her artist fiancé who has been her best friend since childhood. We are made to feel the devastation of this situation that shatters their dream of building a future together. 

The movie is woke, it’s conscious and it’s star studded. Comedic actors such as Brian Tyree Henry and Dave Franco appear to give us a very serious dramatic performance – a nice change from what we often see from them.

The music in this movie, which earned it’s own Oscar nomination, is a leading character which dominates quite a lot of the intense dramatic scenes that have no dialogue. Basically, this movie pulls out all the stops to be an intense emotional experience, which is phenomenal if that’s what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a lighthearted good time, this is not the movie for you.

Stephan James as Fonny, KiKi Layne as Tish, and Brian Tyree Henry as Daniel Carty star in Barry Jenkins’ IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK, an Annapurna Pictures release.

The only issue I had with it were some of the scenes between Tish and Fonny, where the story is brought to a complete stand-still so that we can feel the intensity of the love between the two of them. I understand the purpose and the intention behind it, but it’s also like “okay, we get it, they’re in love. Can we move on to the next part of the story?” It just slowed the story down a bit too much and I wanted to fast forward through it. But the moments are beautiful, if you have the patience and appreciation for them at the time.

Overall, this movie is a very dignified and accurate representation of blackness. It’s a beautifully told story, with food for thought by way of intelligent conscious messages. Its emotional, intense and impactful. And the black women in the Rivers family are such strong, unapologetic Girl Bosses – we’re obsessed.

Girl Boss rating: 9/10


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