How do you follow the Oscar winning exploration of deprivation, black identity and sexual orientation found in Moonlight?
If you are Barry Jenkins, you bring us a beautiful adaptation of James Baldwins If Beale Street Could Talk, exploring family, love, racial profiling and endurance in 1970’s Harlem.
Following ‘Fonny’ (Stephan James) and ‘Tish’ (KiKi Layne) we are taken on a journey through the burgeoning love of two talented and committed young people to the divide of their family unit through racial discrimination and profiling at the heart of American law enforcement.
Performances are incredibly strong, showing the endurance and power of love in the face of discrimination, not just on a romantic level, but also on a family and community level. The script, much of which is taken straight from the book, offers a poetic resonance to the film, with clear reverence for the source material, this is a film that never forgets in routes in literature.
Cinematographer James Laxton (who also worked with Jenkins on Moonlight) delivers beauty and power through a colour palette that moves and flows with the core meaning of each scene, and lighting that enhances the emotion of each performance. The score from Nicholas Britell fits the film perfectly rippling with emotion while connecting the audience to the location and time, with its beautiful use of strings and Jazz.
Beale Street is a sweeping love story, challenging perceptions and stereotypes; giving us a snapshot of American history that still feels far too relevant to the modern world in which we live. Beale Street shows love in its multiple dimensions, from, the romantic love of ‘Fonny’ and ‘Tish’ to the power of family and the community love inherent in many minority neighbourhoods. This is a film that never neglects its core message of oppression, showing the lost aspirations and dreams caused by segregation and discrimination, while also showing the love, support and hope inherent in individuals, families and communities.
A beautiful and poetic journey into love, loss and strength in the face of oppression. Beale Street is a work of cinematic art that will stay with you long after the credits have rolled