Set in 1970s Harlem, “If Beale Street Could Talk” tells the heart breaking love story of Tish Rivers (KiKi Layne) and Alonzo ‘Fonny’ Hunt (Stephan James). At a time they should be celebrating their love and the beginning of a new life, they are instead forced to focus on proving Fonny’s innocence in order to get him out of jail for a crime he did not commit.
Even though it is set in the 70s, the racism, injustice and anguish experienced by Tish and Fonny, sadly, still rings true today.
Writer/Director Barry Jenkins delivers a painfully beautiful film which not only explores the abhorrent racism the protagonists face, but he also chooses to focus on how their love gets them through and is the most important thing in life.
He allows the film to take it’s time, without being self indulgent and allows beauty to reign supreme in amongst all of the ugliness.
The performances in this film are so real they hurt – from Layne to James, and Regina King’s, Oscar nominated, and gut wrenching performance as Layne’s mum, who is so desperate to prove her future grandchild’s dad’s innocence that she won’t let anything get in her way. The strength, poise, dignity and beauty in all their performances are inspiring.
How can a film be both beautiful and yet so devastating? How can it be so powerful, yet so upsetting? How can it leave you feeling a sense of hopelessness yet be so full of hope? Well Barry Jenkins’ follow up to the Oscar winning, “Moonlight” is is all of that and so much more. I will never understand how it was not nominated for Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards, but that doesn’t mean that it is not one of the stand out films of 2019!
“If Beale Street Could Talk” is in Irish cinemas now.