In his third feature, Barry Jenkins, director of the Oscar-winning MOONLIGHT, draws deep from the well of James Baldwin, whose profound insight into African Americans’ unique place in American society serves as inspiration for this gorgeous tone poem on love and justice.
Tish (KiKi Layne) is only 19 but she’s been forced to grow up fast—pregnant by Fonny (Stephan James), the man she loves who is going to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. As the film begins, Tish must break the news to her family and his. Tish’s mother, played with heartbreaking depth by Regina King, soon must decide how far she will go to secure her daughter’s future. As Fonny, Stephan James gives a career-best performance of both grit and grace as a young man deeply in love, but furious at what has befallen him.
Jenkins reveals the layers of conflicting motivations in a filmmaking style that approaches music—dipping into Baldwin’s elevated language and following his characters with unabashed devotion, fully capturing the texture of ’70s New York.
IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK is without doubt a romance but it’s stronger than that because it refuses to indulge fantasy. Infused with MOONLIGHT’s deep lyricism and MEDICINE FOR MELANCHOLY’s flirtatious spark, Barry Jenkins’ latest shows him to be our most clear-eyed chronicler of love.
“The look and feel of the movie—with its luxurious sense of color, its slow gestures and nimbly drawn-out scenes—is so much bigger, more generous, than the hardships it depicts. It’s a vision of 70s New York we’ve never really seen before, practically Candyland compared to the usual vision—even as Jenkins wisely reminds us, over and over, that there’s ugliness here…. This is his finest work: an experience so rapt with an aura of love that even as it trawls the dark, the film is somehow bright.” —K. Austin Collins, Vanity Fair
“Jenkins’ follow-up to MOONLIGHT…maintains his own profound, expressionistic aesthetic, with its lush colors and entrancing faces that speak volumes in few words, resulting in a fascinating hybrid experience—a seminal voice of the past merging with one of the present in a mesmerizing burst of creative passion.” —Eric Kohn, IndieWire “[O]ur attention endures as Jenkins remains a constantly evolving visual artist. The film is achingly beautiful, each frame artfully composed and each song choice thoughtfully matched…Given the film’s unabashed belief in love, it’s satisfying to feel so much while watching it. Sensorily and emotionally, it’s an almost overwhelming experience.” —Benjamin Lee, The Guardian
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Now screening at The Belcourt in Nashville.