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Film Review: “If Beale Street Could Talk” Jenkin’s Cinematic Gem

Film Review: “If Beale Street Could Talk” Jenkin’s Cinematic Gem

” ‘Every poet is an optimist. But on the way to that optimism ‘you have to reach a certain level of despair to deal with your life at all.’ Baldwin on his 1974 book “If Beale Street Could Talk”

2019 Golden Globe nominated for Best Picture and Best Screenplay this beautifully shot and heartfelt, tear-jerker is Oscar winning Barry Jenkins’s follow up to Moonlight. If Beale Street Could Talk is the adaptation of a James Baldwin novel of the same name. The film follows 19-year old Tish (Kiki Layne) and 22-year-old sculptor Fonny (Stephan James), Tish learns she is pregnant as she fights to free her boyfriend from jail for a crime he is wrongly accused and awaiting trial. Right from the opening scene, when we see a birds eye view of the young couple, taking in Beale street, Jenkins sets up the cinematic journey.  This is a moving and detailed depiction of  the delicate intensity of first love and it’s intimacy, and of course “blacklove”.  Amidst the poetry of the love story the film deals with all the other realities of black lives in 1970’s  Harlem, including the incarceration of Black men in America, as lead actor James pointed out a special screening in December “1 in 3 black men are incarcerated by the time they get to 40, I did not need to go back to 1970 to do research for this role it is right here in 2010, the worse part it is only one story”. As part if his research he discovered Kalief Browder who spent three years in Rikers Island when he was 16 years old, accused of stealing a backpack.

Of the book, it was described as a piece of literature that set out to humanise black men in America, Jenkins’s deal with this showing the strong male characters and father figures and the unbreakable African-American family.

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Dir-Screenplay Barry Jenkins Prod Adele Romanski, Sara Murphy, Barry Jenkins, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Megan Ellison
CAST: Kiki Layne, Stephan James, Colman Domingo, Brian Tyree Henry, Regina King
USA 2018 Runtime: 119min –UK Release Date 8 February 2019