December 24, 2018

CINEMA | Barry Jenkins Dreams 'If Beale Street Could Talk'

"Every black person born in America was born on Beale Street."
Stephan James KiKi Layne Barry Jenkins | If Beale Street Could Talk

Moonlight filmmaker Barry Jenkins sensuously adapts renowned author James Baldwin's hopeful but devastating and undeniably romantic 1974 African-American novel, If Beale Street Could Talk. A heart-wrenching portrayal of true love in the face of racial injustice, it's a luminous yet soulful portrait of emotions told with a historical breadth and the literary sophistication of 1970s Harlem.

Starring charismatic newcomers KiKi Layne and Stephan James as young lovers ravaged by their circumstances, Tish and Fonny, the pair form a wondrously tender depiction of romance before Fonny is falsely imprisoned for the rape of a Puerto Rican woman (Emily Rios) by a racist cop (Ed Skrein). Jenkins' confidence with the black love meets injustice material is supremely high shown through his ability to dreamily convey the conflicted joy of the characters.

No more apparent to the success of the adaptation is Regina King's towering performance as Tish's disciplined but loving mother who level-headedly manages the matters of her daughter's circumstances. Full of anguish and understanding, how Jenkins intimately realizes Baldwin's characters is graceful and sensitive in the face of their imperfect world.

Regina King Barry Jenkins | If Beale Street Could Talk

Full of single scene performances from stars like Diego Luna, Dave Franco, Pedro Pascal, and a very sombre Brian Tyree Henry. The latter of whom takes over the film for ten minutes with a soulful but sad portrait personifying the unfortunate plight of black men through American history. The sheer amount of small parts played by famous faces is an embarrassment of riches that disarms viewers captured by humanistic elements of the dreamlike romance.

Full of Wong Kar-wai like flourishes, cinematographer James Laxton frames the imperfect love story with such vivid emotional warmth. Designed to a tee, the set decoration and design evoke such a specific period without distracting from both the slow-burning joy and sadness of the characters' circumstances all set to composer Nicholas Britell's astounding musical score.

If Beale Street Could Talk is an utterly poetic and sweeping depiction of the very unromantic racial injustice that tore apart so many African-American communities throughout history and even today. Jenkins' lyrical portrayal of the human consequences of systematic racism and how it was passed on through relationships is both heartbreaking yet powerful. His treatment of Baldwin's literary material is tremendously affecting.

More | YVArcade / AV Club / Indiewire / Slashfilm / Slate / Vox

0 reactions:

Post a Comment