Director: Barry Jenkins
Release Date: December 25th
Barry Jenkins is back in the spotlight for the first time since his 2016 Best Picture film Moonlight, the beautiful and ambitious film that followed the life of a gay African-American man.
Fast forward two years and Jenkins has floored the film industry again, this time with If Beale Street Could Talk. It is well on its way to being nominated for this year’s Best Picture. Like Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk is a love story, an adaptation of James Baldwin’s 1974 book. The film is made up of gorgeous shots, intimate close-ups and filled with the power of love. The story takes place in the 1970s, when racism was still in the limelight and the inequality of black people was on full display.
If Beale Street Could Talk is led by KiKi Layne and Stephan James. Layne, a relatively unknown 26-year-old, stars as Trish our lead. Stephan James is Lonny, Trish’s boyfriend and the father of her child. Stephan James and KiKi Layne are clearly the superstars. But like any great team, there needs to be a couple of great role players.
Insert Regina King and Brian Tyree Henry, a couple of performers mostly known for their cult classic television shows, Atlanta and Shameless. King plays as Sharon Rivers, Trish’s mother who is undoubtedly caring and supportive of her daughter. Brian Tyree Henry, on the other hand, is only in the film for a mere 10 minutes. He plays Daniel, a friend of Lonny’s who is a loud, funny, and deeply troubled. In his short screen time Henry gives us a jarring performance. Over the past year, Brian Tyree Henry has showed us that he is more than just Paperboi. He has starred in Widows, If Beale Street Could Talk, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. If Beale Street Could Talk will certainly put an explanation point on Henry’s year.
Over the past three years Barry Jenkins has shown us three things. One, he is a master at showing emotion. Whether that is from dialogue or the close up intimate facial shots. Second, he has a unique eye for color. Moonlight shines with a lot of vibrant bright pinks, oranges, and reds (the Miami Vice colors if you will). Beale Street uses natural light. Sun beams bathe the characters’ faces in countless scenes. Lastly, Jennings is the master of a raw love story. The Miami-born director has given us two masterpieces, neither of which is quite an actual romantic movie. Instead, Jennings allows the viewer to decide what his films are. For me the answer is simple: Barry Jennings makes movies for those who believe in the power of love. That power is on full display in If Beale Street Could Talk.