If Beale Street Could Talk: Film Review

So many film critics have raved about If Beale Street Could Talk and complained about its lack of love this awards season, so I went into Barry Jenkins‘ latest project with the highest expectations and I feel bad admitting that I came away deflated.

KiKi Layne stars as Tish, a 19-year-old who has just found out she’s pregnant with boyfriend Fonny (Stephan James)’ child. But there’s a hitch – Fonny is currently in jail after being falsely accused of rape. Tish and her family – particularly her mother Sharon (Regina King) – fight to prove his innocence and get him home before the baby comes.

The film is gorgeous – beautifully shot, lit and with an excellent score by Nicholas Britell – but I just didn’t connect with it at all. Given the dire, desperate, deeply unfair situation, I should have been so emotionally involved in their love story but I wasn’t. I was watching the film at a distance, I wasn’t personally invested in the outcome which is crazy because I usually get so easily moved by films containing such injustice and unfairness.

I put this down to the way the story is told. It doesn’t have a straightforward narrative, it has a lyrical, dreamy quality and switches between flashback and present day a lot. So while the film looks stunning and has some incredible shots, the non-linear structure stopped me from deeply caring about the characters, which is a shame.

I’m not saying I hated it or that it doesn’t deserve awards love. I’m fully onboard with the Oscar nominations for adapted screenplay, original score and supporting actress for King, but I’m also cool with it not getting one for Best Picture. I enjoyed all other Best Picture nominees more than this (with the except of Vice – ergh).

The greatest part of the movie for me was discovering Layne, who I adored. She is the heart of the film, she has a captivating smile and I can’t wait to see what she does next and, of course, King – the awards speak for themselves but she really is amazing. They also have a star-studded cast backing them up, from Colman Domingo as Tish’s dad, to the likes of Brian Tyree Henry, Ed Skrein, Finn Wittrock, Diego Luna, Pedro Pascal and Dave Franco.

I really wanted to love If Beale Street Could Talk, an adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel of the same name, like everyone else but it just didn’t happen for me. I can appreciate that it’s a well-made film which tells a poignant story but I didn’t care for it as much as I should have.

In cinemas now 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: