If Beale Street Could Talk (2018): Film Review
The best film of the year.
The beginning of Barry Jenkins' ambitious follow-up to his best picture flick Moonlight is simply a black screen, filled with a James Baldwin quote from the top to the bottom. Although I can't fully spell out what the quote actually said, it stressed the idea that "Beale Street is more than an idea. It is a culture, present everywhere around the world." It is a beautiful quote, and a perfect way to kick off what is one of 2018's most heartbreaking, astonishing, and beautiful films. I'm not even going to sugar-coat it, when I went into this film, I had extremely high expectations. Following one of the most beautiful trailers of the year, and the high reviews following its premiere at TIFF, I knew I was destined to love it. And I am so proud to say that: Barry Jenkins' If Beale Street Could Talk is everything I ever wanted, and more.
The film is a love story at it's roots, between the two main characters - Tish and Fonny. When they are with each other, they are in pure Heaven, but their paradise begins to get shattered as the world around them caves in, showing the bad effect's of society on their love. We are thrown into two time-lines that the film bounces back and forth between, which can sort of be known as the "before" and the "after". The "before" tells the story of the love that began to grow out of Tish and Fonny's friendship, and the blossoming of their relationship. The "after" takes place after Fonny was thrown in jail for a crime he didn't commit, awaiting trial that looms in a back corner of the film, sinking down the viewer's chest as the film powers on to it's finale. While Fonny's locked up, Tish is expecting his baby, and we can see the pure emotion and sorrow both characters are feeling as they are torn up, longing for each other, waiting to see each other again. The whole film is spectacular, and has a lot to say about society as a whole, even in the modern day.
Barry Jenkins has created a masterpiece with this one, that's for sure. Between this and Moonlight, he has truly proved that he is a complete powerhouse behind the camera, and that he is an expert at crafting a hardly-acted drama with so much social commentary and messages that strike the viewer long after the credits have finished rolling. Nothing elevates the film more than the brilliant performances from KiKi Layne and Stephan James (newcomers to the game), who suppress the raw emotion their characters are feeling so well, and have a beautiful on-screen chemistry with each other. Everything about the film is precise and controlled, and it works in the film's favor, as it is completely stunning. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and most importantly: it will make you question the way society is contemplated as a whole. It has a lot of meaning about the corruption of the justice system, and the unfair treatment of minority cultures across the United States.
I cannot stress this fact enough, you need to see If Beale Street Could Talk - simple as that. The film is truly a marvelous feat in American Cinema, thanks to the brilliant ensemble of cast and crew, who compliment each other in the best way possible. The film defines what a great movie truly is, and that fact right there - that is something you'll be able to see right from the opening minute. It's as simple as that.