If Beale Street Could Talk - It would say ''keep your head down''.
It’s the 1970’s, you’re in NYC & racism is rife. If you have dark skin, then things will be extremely difficult for you.
What you see in If Beale Street Could Talk, is essentially what I have just described above, but the primary focus is on two people who are madly in love with each other and caught up in the middle of it all.
This movie is based on a novel by James Baldwin who published the book in 1974, so one could only presume he had a very good idea of how things were back then. The love story itself is a pleasant one. There’s nothing particularly special or unique about it, although, there is something that makes you keep watching, so one can only applaud the director, Barry Jenkins, for capturing such insatiable love. The couple in question are Tish (played by Kiki Layne) & Fonny (Stephan James). Both Fonny & Tish were friends when they were little & as they got older, their friendship became a loving relationship & if you watch the film, you will see how their lives quickly change.
For a movie that’s plot & surroundings are equally as harsh as one another, I anticipated a healthy (or, unhealthy, depending on which way you’re looking at it) dose of drama, yet, not a great deal of that occurs. Don’t get me wrong, there is substance, I just felt as if the film lacked in it’s events. It was never bad or boring, just simple & plain, with some artistic flare.
Stephan James in Homecoming, on Amazon Prime Video, was very believable in his role, so I had no doubt that he would re-deliver in If Beale Street Could Talk. I would go as far as saying he was the driving force for this movie & without such an engaging young man at the heart of it, I do wonder if it would have been anywhere near as liked/well received as it has been.
Regina King who played Fonny’s mother, Sharon Rivers, was as good you would expect her to be (if you know of her previous work, of course). She’s a very passionate actress that seems to display emotion at any given moment. I think that’s what you call a ‘natural’ & seeing as she has very recently won an Oscar for this performance, I like to think I have a good eye for detail (gloating intended).
Kiki Layne played her part well as Fonny’s girlfriend & I was convinced she loved Fonny. In all honesty, every role in If Beale Street Could Talk needed to be reliably good, otherwise, it just wouldn’t have worked. The reason for that is due to how the film lingers in specific moments. It stops, sits & ponders, so you do to. Throughout the film it’s as if it’s reflecting on itself, what’s just happened & what could happen. ‘‘Why is life like this for the people on Beale Street and beyond?’’ It begs that question, so you inevitably think it, then ask it.
If I were to be brutally honest, I would say that this film is neither here or there. I think back to those moments where Tish & Fonny fondle one another, or have their moments in pure bliss, perhaps even when the camera focuses on a window sill, or the weather. Whatever it was the director wanted you to see when the film pauses in those thought provoking moments, it worked, but was the source material good enough to produce a truly great film that will cement itself as one you will always remember? Was there/it enough for me to recommend this movie as soon as I walked out of the cinema? The answer to that, for me, is no. I can appreciate that If Beale Street Could Talk has some respectable elements in it’s favour & I can see how, due to these elements, it would appeal to lots of people out there. There was just something missing & I can’t quite put my finger on it. Perhaps this was a book that needed to stay as one, because as we all know, there are plenty of other examples out there that support this. Throughout this film, I wanted more, but ‘more’ never came.
What did you think of If Beale Street Could Talk? Comment down below!