How do you follow up Moonlight, a feat of near cinematic perfection? By taking on a seemingly unfilmable novel in the form of James Baldwin's If Beale Street Could Talk. Baldwin's writing, last on screen in the masterful I Am Not Your Negro, here is brought to life in a deeply emotive, soulful film that confirms Barry Jenkins to be the auteur that Moonlight indicated he very much was.
The film follows Tish, a pregnant nineteen year old in 70s
As with Moonlight, it seems a supporting actor is destined to reap Oscar glory. And Regina King's performance is spectacular, especially in one sequence that will devastate you. But she is one of many in an ensemble of brilliance. The likes of Colman Domingo, Teyonah Parris and Brian Tyree Henry give dazzling performances, no matter the extent of their time on screen. There is a lived in quality to the film, helping to give the feel that this is just a snapshot of the lives these characters live. As our central couple, KiKi Layne and Stephan James bring a warmth and humanity to intensely intimate roles that require a breadth of emotions from them.
If Beale Street Could Talk is a stunningly beautiful film, with Jenkins reuniting many members of the team behind his sophomore effort. Nicholas Britell's score is a stirring, soaring achievement, one that seems to both propel action forward, hinting at sorrows yet to come, and offer a window into the emotional state of the film's characters. James Laxton frames each shot like a piece of art, giving the film a haunting look. The camera lingers, unnaturally, on the faces of Jenkins' lead characters as they stare back at us. It is an incredibly penetrating technique, time seeming to stop as we gaze into their eyes.
If Beale Street Could Talk speaks to the audience on a level that few films have achieved this awards season. It is an intelligent exploration of the racial injustices that exist in