If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)

Image result for if beale street could talk movie poster

Every year, there are several movies that are released in 2018, limited, that never come around to my neck of the woods until January.  So a couple of years ago, I decided that these would not be on my 2019 list of best movies because they were released in 2018.  The first one of those films is the second film from Barry Jenkins, whose first film, Moonlight, won an Academy Award.

This is a wonderful story as well, but I am not sure that it is as wonderful as Moonlight was.

This is the story of young love separated by the law.  Tish (Kiki Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James) were childhood friends, close as could be, who developed into a romantic relationship as young adults.  However, despite his innocence, Fonny was arrested for rape and sent to jail, separating the pair.  Tish then discovered that she was pregnant.

The film looked at the love story between the two in flashbacks, focused on Tish and her family, and the battle to try and get Fonny a fair trial despite being railroaded by a seemingly racist cop (Ed Skrein).

Standing out was Regina King, whose performance has drawn people to hope for an Oscar nomination.  She was powerful in her screen time, but, with the amount of buzz I had heard about her, I expected more time on screen for her.  When she was there, King was tremendous.

Kiki Layne was beautiful and had a presence on-screen that demanded attention as well.  I think she is a future superstar as well.

There was some stretches of the film that dragged a bit for me, particularly in the middle and I feel as if some plot points were left to dangle, and the ending was not satisfactory, however, none of these criticisms hurt the film too badly.

That is because the most important part of the film was the relationship with Tish and Fonny, and that worked beautifully.  You rooted for them. You hoped they could make it.  You loved watching them together and how they were able to complete the other.

Plus, there is the social justice aspect as well, with the way Fonny was taken down despite having a solid alibi and being in a place that he could not have gotten to and still committed the rape.

Yet, the performance from the rape victim (Emily Rios) was breathtaking as well and gave Regina King the best material to play off of in the entire film.

If Beale Street Could Talk was adapted for the screen from a novel from James Baldwin of the same title.  It provided a richness unlike many other source materials.

The film is a beautifully made film and highlights some top notch performances.  Barry Jenkins cemented himself as one of the best new directors in movies today.

3.75 stars

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