NOTE: This review contains MINOR spoilers for the film.
Every poet is an optimist. But on the way to that optimism you have to reach a certain level of despair to deal with your life at all. -James Baldwin on his novel- If Beale Street Could Talk
This is really happening: Families really are being torn apart by this. Love is really under attack by these injustices and these issues. –KiKi Layne, actor
I think the biggest message is love and hope. You never know the power of that, and how that can get you through the most tumultuous times. -Stephan James, actor
 It’s a story of love and family and the impact of racism without any of the preachiness we often get.
 The acting was great, especially Regina King. She deserves every award she is nominated for in this pic.
 I did want more of the film, but that’s not to say it felt unfinished. I just wanted more of every character.
-Excerpts from IMDB reviews
I went to see this film last FRI w/ 2 of my gal pals at one of our local indie theaters- Landmark Bethesda. Our screening was packed mainly w/ middle-aged and elderly couples (black and white). It was adapted (from a novel by James Baldwin) and directed by Barry Jenkins (NOT yet 40 y.o.) In 2016, Jenkins’ film Moonlight won the Best Picture Oscar; I saw that film on Netflix (late to the game). I thought that film was pretty good; it had an unique style and BOTH Mahershala Ali and Andre Holland are actors I admire. I think Beale Street could be more relateable; it’s partly a love story and also a look at justice system in the U.S.
Tish (KiKi Layne- in her first film role), a 19 y.o. dept. store clerk, and Fonnie (Stephan James), a 22 y.o. artist are deeply in love. They grew up together (in very different families) and being a romantic pair just came naturally. Fonnie gets arrested for a (serious) crime that he didn’t commit; Tish learns that she is pregnant w/ his child. Tish’s older sister, Ernestine (Teyonah Parris from Chi-Raq) find a (young/white) lawyer for Fonnie, Hayward (Finn Whitrock). Both families hustle to raise funds for the defense, incl. conducting investigations outside the country. Tish’s mother, Sharon (Regina King), is VERY supportive and goes to great lengths for the love of her child. I think King could be in the running for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar!
This film is NOT about action, it’s more about character development; we see life through black people living in Harlem in the ’70s. There are some tender moments, BUT also difficult ones (which feel timeless, sad to say). Fonnie and Tish have a VERY tough time finding a place of their own to live. His best friend, Daniel (Brian Tyree Henry from Atlanta), runs into Fonnie on the street; he was gone for several yrs from the area (we discover why). Some critics commented how rare it is to just see two young black men talking about their lives and feelings.
There is a LOT of chemistry between the leads; they can convey vulnerability and strength (as situations arise). The supporting actors are quite good; the cast includes Aunjanue Ellis, Michael Beach, Diego Luna, Pedro Pascal, and Ed Skrein. There are MANY close-ups, long takes (reminiscent of classic films), and the music is used quite effectively. These kind of films are VERY important- they put us in the shoes of people who are rarely depicted onscreen, or NOT depicted in a realistic manner. I recommend to indie film fans (of all ages and backgrounds); perhaps some of you will take a friend/family member who prefers more mainstream fare.
5 thoughts on “If Beale Street Could Talk (NOW PLAYING)”
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Saw it today, as if *finally* made it here. I thought it was excellent, although maybe not as good as Moonlight, which imo had a better rhythm / timing to it. This doesn’t seem to have that same efficiency of movement from scene to scene. And you’re absolutely right, simply fantastic cast. I can’t believe Brian Tyree Henry isn’t getting more notice from the awards people — I’ve seen him in several things this year and he’s excellent in all of them.
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I am starting to fear this won’t come here unless it gets an Oscar nom. I really want to see it. I loved Moonlight.