By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
Director/screenwriter, Barry Jenkins
follows up his 2016 Oscar winning film “Moonlight” with the searing drama, “If Beale Street Could Talk.”
It’s a poignant adaptation of the 1974 James Baldwin novel of the same name. Set in Harlem New York, “If Beale Street Could Talk,” chronicles the black experience in America and specifically a love story that prevails against all odds.
Tish Rivers (a sensational KiKi Layne, TV’s “Chicago Med”) is 19-years-old and madly in love with artist Alonzo “Fonny” Hunt, 22 (a terrific Stephan James, “Jesse Owens” and “Selma”).
But the joy and passion they share soon turns to sorrow when Alonzo is framed by a racist cop (Ed Skrein, “Deadpool”) and sent to prison for allegedly raping a Puerto Rican woman named Victoria Rogers (Emily Rios, TV’s “Snowfall”).
In addition to that, Tish is pregnant and now must deal with raising their kid alone.
Of course, Tish’s mother Sharon (the always sensational Regina King, TV’s “American Crime”), her father Joseph (an excellent Colman Domingo, TV’s “Fear the Walking Dead”) and feisty sister Ernestine (Teyonah Parris, TV’s “Empire”), support her unconditionally.
The same can’t be said for Alonzo’s mother (Aunjanue Ellis, TV’s “Designated Survivor”). She never felt Tish was the right girl for Alonzo and believes this latest mess is all her fault.
When both families sit down to discuss Tish’s next step, things get testy especially when the Alonzo’s sisters Adrienne (Ebony Obsidian, TV’s “Tough Love”) and Sheila (Dominique Thorne) join with their mother to pile on the insults. Alonzo’s father, Frank (Michael Beach, “Aquaman”) is the only one of the bunch who is rational, until he literally takes matters into his own hands.
“If Beale Street Could Talk” is partially narrated by Layne and it uses flashbacks to tell this compelling story to great effect. Despite the film’s somberness--“Every black person born in America was born on Beale Street”—there is a poetic vibe that percolates throughout it that gives it a warmth and specialness.
You can also attribute that to the stellar performances all around. Brian Tyree Henry (“Widows”) delivers again
portraying Alonzo’s friend, but it’s Regina King who truly shines.
Those recent Critics' Choice and Golden Globes nominations are deserved.
There’s a lot to like about “If Beale Street Could Talk.” It’s a love story for sure, but it also reveals and speaks to so much more.
Check Out This Trailer For "IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of The Broadcast Film Critics’ Association (BFCA), The Black Film Critics Circle (BFCC), The Alliance Of Women Film Journalists (AWFJ) and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.