Director Barry Jenkins delivers another masterpiece with ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’


Kiki Layne (left) and Stephan James (right) star as Tish and Fonny in Barry Jenkins’ newest film, “If Beale Street Could Talk”. IMDb website photo.

From Academy Award-winning director Barry Jenkins, “If Beale Street Could Talk” is a romance set in 1970s Harlem, New York. It follows the lives of Tish (Kiki Layne) and her fiancé, Alonzo (Stephan James) who goes by the nickname Fonny. Tish and Fonny are young, in love and ready to begin their new life together as expecting parents. However, their lives are put on hold when Fonny is arrested and imprisoned for a crime he did not commit.

After Jenkins delivered the award-winning film “Moonlight” in 2016, I had high expectations when he announced his next film, “If Beale Street Could Talk.”

“Moonlight” is a landmark film in American cinema, with stellar production, outstanding performances and a thematic focus on the harsh realities many gay African-American men endure.

With such a heavy film under his belt, I thought Jenkins would not be able to match, let alone surpass, the standard of artistic filmmaking that “Moonlight” had established with his newest film.

I was wrong.

“If Beale Street Could Talk” is a poignant film that truly captures the beauty and intimacy of romance without shying away from the hard truths of relationships and racial inequality in the United States.

The film is carried by stellar performances from Layne, James and Regina King, who plays Tish’s mother, Sharon.

The fact that these three actors have incredibly authentic on-screen chemistry shows that they immersed themselves in their respective characters.

Layne and James’ performances as Tish and Fonny are both worthy of merit. Their characters encapsulated the joys and sorrows of a relationship torn apart by an unjust system.

The real-world obstacles that the couple faces in the film made their on-screen presence feel much more authentic and, therefore, all the more tragic.

The accompanying musical score, composed by Nicholas Britell, helps establish the tone of the film and compliments the feeling of hopelessness conveyed throughout the duration of the movie.

The film received only three nominations at this year’s Academy Awards (Best Original Score, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress for King’s performance). This is criminal, considering how notable Jenkins’ direction and Layne and James’ performances were.

“If Beale Street Could Talk” uses the romantic arc of the film to emphasize that many of the racial injustices African-Americans felt in the 1970s are still being experienced today. For this, I appreciate the film and the message it is trying to deliver.

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Angel Ortega can be reached at [email protected] and @AngelOrtegaNews on Twitter.