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If Beale Street Could Talk Review

11 Dec

There’s no doubt that this is a beautifully crafted film. Britell’s score is the best of the year, Jenkins and Laxton bring a loving tenderness to each shot composition, and the performances bleed compassion and ache with love. But it’s also all a bit too controlled, a bit too removed, a bit too artistically perfect. Jenkins wants to highlight the simplicity of the central romance, but he doesn’t let the rest of the film breathe in the same way. By alternating between grandiose monologues from underused supporting characters and wordless closeups of our main characters, he begins to lose the pure magic of the latter. As the film progresses, it becomes less of a palpable feeling of romance and more a repetitive attempt to capture that feeling. Britell’s score, unfortunately, becomes a crutch in a way. The ending is unsatisfying, but not in a good manner. It feels like the filmmaking and the story are incomplete.

That being said, there are scenes in this film that radiate with love, and more importantly with unabashedly black love. Jenkins dives headfirst into his characters’ faces, playing with focus and his actors’ eyes in a way that draws each emotion through to all edges of the screen. The first scene is perhaps the most quintessential: a simple walk through the streets of Harlem, a calming yet overwhelming feeling of longing blooming outward as two hands intertwine. The scene, and the film overall, is an attempt to speak what is unspoken, to make the internal feel external, and to build on the internal with the utmost fervor and the belief that you can love despite circumstance. And if the silenced could talk, if legacy could talk, if Beale Street could talk, there would be so much it could say. But it doesn’t need to talk for us to listen.

GRADE: B

Jenkins talked about something very important afterward that only increased my respect for him: during the scene in which Tish and Fonny first have sex, he was originally going to have an out of focus shot of Fonny standing half naked by the record player, but his female friends told him that if this were from a man’s perspective, the woman would’ve been in focus and objectified. And thus, he changed it so that Fonny was in focus and objectified during the scene because it’s from Tish’s perspective. Respect to Barry for actually listening and making that change. I was slightly disappointed by this film, but I will watch anything this guy makes.

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