If Beale Street Could Talk is a romantic drama directed and written by Barry Jenkins, based on James Baldwin’s 1969 novel of the same name. It follows a young African-American woman who, with her family’s support, seeks to clear the name of her wrongly charged lover and prove his innocence before the birth of their child. There’s been lots of marketing of this movie, beware of over zealous advertising! Still, I liked the film.
Clementine “Tish” Rivers (KiKi Layne) and Alonzo “Fonny” Hunt (Stephan James) have been friends their entire lives. As children, they did everything together, from taking baths to playing in the streets. As adults, they enter a romantic relationship together and hold a bond between them that can’t be broken. After deciding to get married, they struggle to find a place to live as most landlords refuse to rent apartments to black people. Eventually they found a place in a warehouse that is in the process of being converted to an apartment building. Levy (Dave Franco), the Jewish landlord, agrees to rent it to them at a reasonable rate due to the fact that he enjoys seeing couples in love, regardless of their race.
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One night, when Tish is shopping at a predominately White grocery store, she is harassed by a White man. When he begins to assault her, Fonny physically throws the man out of the store. Officer Bell (Ed Skrein), who was nearby witnesses the incident but because of his racist background, attempts to arrest Fonny. Bell reluctantly lets Fonny go when the lady who runs the grocery store vouches for the couple. Soon after the incident, Fonny is arrested for raping a Hispanic woman, despite the fact that it would have been virtually impossible for Fonny to travel from the scene of the crime to the apartment where he was arrested. The case against Fonny is considered strong due to Officer Bell’s testimony, who says the he saw Fonny fleeing the scene plus Victoria Rogers (Emily Rios), the victim, picks him out of a line-up then disappears after identifying Fonny as her rapist. Tish, as well as Fonny’s friend, Daniel Carty (Brian Tyree Henry), were with Fonny and would be his alibi at the time of the rape, but their testimony isn’t considered reliable due to Tish’s romantic relationship with Fonny, and Daniel’s previous conviction for grand theft auto (despite his claim to not even know how to drive a car).
While the film is dealing with the most delicate of matters, it doesn’t give any closure to the story. If Beale Street could Talk opens at the apartment where the Rivers family live. A routine family dinner is taking place, showing the closeness of the family and their status in the community. Learning of Tish’s pregnancy, they decide to invite Fonny’s family over to share the news. The scene gets down right hilarious as insults and accusations fly between the two families. Tish’s mother, Sharon Rivers (Regina King) has a way of showing her feelings through a series of facial expressions that would scare off most but then speaks in the most kind and soft voice that would make most melt. Tish’s father, Joseph Rivers (Coleman Domingo) is funny and supportive. Their story is heart felt and is worthy of anger directed at a tiresome racial problem that makes no sense. The saddest part, is we are still experiencing racism at the highest level and still we struggle to rise above it, tell our stories and suffer in hopes the problem ends before the world perishes. Hate is a terrible thing and we could achieve so much more without it. I enjoyed If Beale Street Could Talk, I just think it was a little over marketed. Despite the appearance of a low budget the performances were quite believable, the story has much more to offer so Check it Out!
[If Beale Street Could Talk is Oscar nominated for Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Score]