“Remember, love is what brought you here. And if you’ve trusted love this far, don’t panic now. Trust it all the way,” Sharon Rivers exclaimed to her pregnant daughter, in the first act of If Beale Street Could Talk.
If Beale Street Could Talk is a heartbreaking yet hopeful love story between characters Tish and Fonny, set in 1970’s Harlem. Through the non-linear structure, we see flashbacks of the couple falling in love and the present’s reality when we see that people have barriers between them. In present time, Fonny is behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit, but outside of the jail’s doors Tish and her family are trying to get him out before her unexpected baby is due.
The group of actors portraying author James Baldwin’s work is extraordinary. In her first screen acting role, Kiki Layne takes the plunge and shows all of herself as Tish. Her love, determination and admiration is foreshadowed by Stephan James’ Fonny, who’s raw emotions bring a realistic (not those crime shows who show prisoners only as macho) approach to what prisoners in America’s prison system feel.
With an ensemble cast including Regina King (a queen!), Brian Tyree Henry (who deserves every award for his role) and even Dave Franco (as a jewish, Birkenstocks wearing landlord) , Beale Street is a must see.
When Baldwin’s words are combined with 2017 Best Picture Winner Moonlight’s director Barry Jenkins, you know you are going to get a true masterpiece.
From the start of the film when, Baldwin’s thoughts on America were first projected on screen, my eyes welled up. I have seen the film three times in theaters, by the time this review comes out and it is my favorite theater experience and movie of 2018.
If Beale Street Could Talk will be released on digital March 12, 2019.