The latest film from award-winning director Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), If Beale Street Could Talk is an adaptation of the novel by James Baldwin.
Set in 1970’s Harlem, the film is centred around childhood sweethearts Tish (Kiki Layne) and Alonzo, or ‘Fonny’ (Stephan James) as he is affectionately known by. The young couple have always belonged with each other, and dream of a future together that is sadly ripped away when Fonny is sent to jail falsely accused of rape. Fighting to prove Fonny’s innocence while pregnant with his child, Tish experiences the harsh, prejudiced system first hand.
Bursting with a vivid colour palette, and poetic imagery, If Beale Street Could Talk is truly stunning. We catch glimpses of Fonny through Tish’s recollections, the depth of her love clear by the way the camera frames his face adoringly. The crinkles around his eyes, his cheeky grin, Fonny radiates a warm, compassionate glow. In his element, we see Fonny in his studio sculpting, a gorgeous orchestral score compliments the scene, smoke billowing from his cigarette. Like a ghost, Fonny is presented to us as a memory, as the man who Tish so admires and trusts.
The film respectfully highlights the casual racism that black people endure on a daily basis, and the sheer struggle to do even the most basic things like rent a house, due to the prejudices against them. These struggles are narrated by Tish, her soft voice guiding us through the story. This along with the film’s lengthy, poignant conversations, focusing on the spoken word, pays tribute to the story’s beginnings as a novel.
A breathtaking film from the masterful Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk exhibits the purest love between two people, and how unfairly they can be torn apart.
If Beale Street Could Talk screens Fri 22 – Thu 28 Feb. To book tickets, click here.