If Beale Street Could Talk is a true achievement, a technical marvel, and the host of one of the year’s best ensembles. The film, inspired by the novel of the same name, is an enchanting work that boasts and elegant cinematography that finds the beauty in simple moments, and utilizes a simple yet non-sequential narrative structure to bring us into its world. It’s a testament to director and writer Barry Jenkins how well the film is put together; its heartwarming and sad, and manages to touch on larger issues whilst mostly focusing on one couple and family.
Set in the early 1970s, the film follows a young couple, Tish (Kiki Lane) and Fonny (Stephen James), who fall in love and are separated after Fonny is accused of a crime he didn’t commit. The entire ensemble is full of wonderful characters that illuminate the screen and offer their own sensitivities, particularly Regina King as Tish’s mother and Brian Tyree Henry as an old friend of Fonny’s, but its the two leads that anchor this story. Their romance is told with patience and grace, making their time apart seem all the more unbearable.
The film switches back and forth between the events following the alleged crime and the origin of Tish and Fonny’s romance; the flashbacks are simply joyous and enchanting, and the following events detail the legal and emotional lengths taken to achieve justice. Each cast member brings something here, making even inconsequential events another excuse to spend time with these characters, and while the film’s ending may seem unsatisfactory to some, it couldn’t have been a more realistic conclusion or a better finale to the emotional arc of the story. If Beale Street Could Talk is a wonderful journey of thoughtfulness and empathy, a true masterpiece from Barry Jenkins. Grade: A