Today I will be reviewing Barry Jenkins’ new film If Beale Street Could Talk. I usually try not to use the words Novel and Film because I feel like I sound like a pretentious dick. But honestly with this one there is no other word to use for this work of art.
We all know what happened last time Barry Jenkins made a movie.
Since then he worked on a TV series and now this new film. Beale Street is based on a novel by James Baldwin and is a beautifully tragic story about relationships in Harlem. The main character Alonzo “Fonny” Hunt (played by Stephan James) is accused and convicted of a sexual assault that he did not commit. This is an interesting premise because the film takes place in I believe the 1950’s and this situation is still a talking point in our world today. His fiancee (who Fonny’s family does not like) Clementine “Tish” Rivers (played stunningly by Kiki Layne) spends the whole movie in the present trying to get him out.
There is also many scenes showing events in their past that led to this point, but nothing ever feels out of place and seems to engage the viewer in the overall story. The non linear style of storytelling seems to be a Barry Jenkins staple throughout his first couple films. One of those incredible scenes is when Brian Tyree Henry shows up playing Daniel Carty, one of Fonny’s old friends, and steals the movie for 15 minutes. Henry has been on such a hot streak with Atlanta, Hotel Artemis, Widows, Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse, and White Boy Rick all in 2018. When he leaves you can tell the energy in the movie levels a little bit.
What makes this film great to be honest, is just brutal scene after brutal scene culminating in a….wait for it…brutal climax. There is a family scene at the beginning that is so hard to watch, yet you absolutely cannot look away for one second because of how well it is made. That is a credit to the greatness of Barry Jenkins, who unbelievably is only on his 3rd major motion picture (the second being Moonlight). With the way this is shot and the performances he gets, you would think this dude is some wily veteran behind the camera.
One of those performances that is getting a lot of love this award season is Regina King as Tish’s Mom.
She plays this role so well and is a rock star every time she is on the screen. I really hope she is rewarded with the Oscar for this role, because she absolutely deserves it.
* A couple other tidbits
- I needed more of Aunjanue Ellis, Fonny’s disapproving mother. She was cold as ice and a joy to watch.
- Colman Domino and Michael Beach as the two lovers father’s are hilarious and the most relatable characters in the film.
- If you know me, you know Im a HUGE movie score guy, and this was the best score of the year. So shoutout Nicholas Britell.
- I am high on Stephan James future after Race then this.
This is a beautiful film, that just falls a bit short on wrapping up a few of the storylines. You will also walk out of the theater a little queasy knowing how this story line can translate seamlessly to today’s world. But the shots, the performances, and the score make Beale Street a very enjoyable experience.
*As always all of my movie ratings can be found here.