Barry Jenkins shines again with ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ (Annapurna)
From Annapurna Pictures comes Academy Award-winning writer-director Barry Jenkins’s first film since the Best Picture Oscar-winning Moonlight. If Beale Street Could Talk is his adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel, the first English-language feature film based on the work of the author, to whom the movie is dedicated.
Set in early-1970s Harlem, If Beale Street Could Talk is a moving, timeless love story of both a couple’s unbreakable bond and the African-American family’s empowering embrace as told through the eyes of 19-year-old Tish Rivers (screen newcomer KiKi Layne).
A daughter and wife-to-be, Tish vividly recalls the passion, respect, and trust that have connected her and her artist fiancé Alonzo “Fonny” Hunt (Stephan James). Friends since childhood, the devoted couple dreams of a future together, but their plans are derailed when Fonny is arrested for a crime he didn’t commit.
Tish knows that Fonny is innocent, and is mindful that his good friend Daniel Carty (Tony and Emmy Award nominee Brian Tyree Henry) has only recently been freed after an unjust incarceration. While Fonny’s mother (Aunjanue Ellis) clings to piety and his father (Michael Beach) grapples with feelings of powerlessness, Tish’s earthy father Joseph (Colman Domingo) and fierce older sister Ernestine (Teyonah Parris) are unwavering in their support.
Even more anxious to clear Fonny’s name is Tish’s deeply compassionate mother Sharon (Emmy Award winner Regina King), readying to put herself on the line for her daughter and future son-in-law’s happiness . . . and for the couple’s unborn child, whose arrival will herald new joys and challenges.
Facing the unexpected prospect of parenthood and holding down a job without her partner at her side, Tish must adjust her perspective on the realities of her existence. She visits Fonny regularly, trying to shore up his spirit even as prison takes its toll. As the weeks turn to months, Tish reaffirms their hopes and resilience, relying on familial and inner strength.
Through the unique intimacy and power of cinema, If Beale Street Could Talk honors the author’s prescient words and imagery, charting the emotional currents navigated in an unforgiving and racially biased world as the filmmaker poetically crosses time frames to show how love and humanity endure.