If Beale Street Could Talk (2019)

TOMATOMETER

Critic Consensus: If Beale Street Could Talk honors its source material with a beautifully filmed adaptation that finds director Barry Jenkins further strengthening his visual and narrative craft.

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Movie Info

Set in early-1970s Harlem, If Beale Street Could Talk is a timeless and moving 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 Hunt, who goes by the nickname Fonny (Stephan James). Friends since childhood, the devoted couple dream of a future together but their plans are derailed when Fonny is arrested for a crime he did not commit. 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.

Cast

KiKi Layne
as Tish Rivers
Colman Domingo
as Joseph Rivers
Teyonah Parris
as Ernestine Rivers
Brian Tyree Henry
as Daniel Carty
Michael Beach
as Frank Hunt
Ed Skrein
as Officer Bell
Diego Luna
as Pedrocito
Pedro Pascal
as Pietro Alvarez
Aunjanue Ellis
as Mrs. Hunt
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News & Interviews for If Beale Street Could Talk

Critic Reviews for If Beale Street Could Talk

All Critics (235) | Top Critics (39)

That's pure cinema. What Baldwin does with words, Mr. Jenkins does visually.

Jan 11, 2019 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

James Laxton's cinematography is even more richly hued than his work on Jenkins's Moonlight, and the sound design and Nicholas Britell's score add to the movie's brimming sensory pleasures.

Dec 27, 2018 | Full Review…

This movie works as a timeless romance, a family drama, a legal thriller and a poignant social commentary. A great American novel has been turned into a great American film.

Dec 26, 2018 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

If a powerful kick to your gut's sense of social justice is what you're looking for, you can't do any better.

Dec 26, 2018 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

"If Beale Street Could Talk" carves a holy place in a hard, hard world.

Dec 26, 2018 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
Boston Globe
Top Critic

Jenkins lets the story unfold slowly and patiently, giving his actors room to tell their own quiet stories.

Dec 25, 2018 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for If Beale Street Could Talk

I might be the only person on the internet who didn't like Moonlight, but whatever trepidation I may have had about Barry Jenkins has been banished away thanks to his recent adaptation of the James Baldwin novel "If Beale Street Could Talk". In it, KiKi Layne plays a young woman coming to terms with her pregnancy after her boyfriend (Stephan James) has been imprisoned under a false accusation of rape. The core of the story is predominantly focused on their relationship, a pure love born out of mutual respect, honesty, and years of dedication, a love that we rarely see conveyed with such profound depth in even the genre of romance film. At times, the intimacy is incredibly arresting without being lurid or melodramatic. Equally rare is the way in which 1970's Harlem is presented. Normally a city shown in crime dramas as grey and rainy, soon to be hidden in the shadows of neon lights, Jenkin's Harlem is a sunny and vibrant world if not a bid dilapidated. It is populated by families, brothers and sisters genuinely trying to help and understand one another, but this is often eclipsed by the societal afflictions of deep seated bigotry, police corruption, and the victimization of the working class. One of the most unsettling scenes this year is a character played by Bryan Tyree Henry, another man recently incarcerated after being falsely accused, describing the existential and physical horror of living in prison, how it changes a person and instills fear in your very soul. It's a chilling yang to the romantic yin of Tish and Fonny's relationship, taking on themes that have been handled in a much more bumbling fashion all year in equally socially conscious (yet less refined) films.

K Nife Churchkey
K Nife Churchkey

Super Reviewer

If Beale Street could talk it would warn you to avoid seeing If Beale Street Could Talk.The acting was good but the story was excruciatingly dull and the music a major distraction. Was it arty crap or crappy art? 2019 not off to a good start (1-1-19).

John C
John C

Super Reviewer

½

Though not familiar with writer James Baldwin's work in October of 2016 I found myself suddenly taken with the work of a young director who'd only just directed his second feature after a near eight year break in between his first and second films that I'm sure was anything but a break. Barry Jenkins' Moonlight, the eventual Best Picture winner for 2017, was a film that kept knocking at my brain for days after seeing it. It only seems fitting then that Jenkins' follow-up to that much heralded work is a piece that not only requires patience and trust on its journey, but one that is simultaneously so simplistic yet contains mountains of emotions and social commentary aching to be unpacked; ideas, inclinations, and images that will continue to resonate in my mind for days upon days. If Beale Street Could Talk, adapted from Baldwin's 1974 novel of the same name, is a meditation session of a movie, but in this sense it is also wholly an experience as well. There is story if not sporadic plot points that guide the viewer through the series of themes Jenkins is keen on communicating, but these plot points seem more present for the benefit of the conditioned viewer than they are for the sake of the film saying what it wants to say. Jenkins doesn't necessarily need traditional structure to convey what he wants to convey as he proved in Moonlight with his triptych approach, but with Beale Street there are really only three whole scenes in the film while the rest of it is more montages or anecdotes that essentially swirl around these three major moments to create a deeper context for the more full, finite scenes that pinpoint the beginning, middle, and end of the film. It's an interesting way to approach story and it uniquely conveys the sense of feeling and emotion the film wants to relay better than it would were it trying to do the same thing through a more straightforward technique. Of course, with what is more of a loose, jazz-inspired structure the viewer is fed little bits of information at a time from different stages in these characters' lives, but it is through the power of how Jenkins and his editors, Joi McMillon and Nat Sanders, weave the layers of the story of Tish (KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James) together that not only do we become convinced of their love for one another, but we are convinced further by their friendship and, as a result, that they are meant to be; soulmates, if you will, separated through injustice, but never truly divided. read the whole review at www.reviewsfromabed.com

Philip Price
Philip Price

Super Reviewer

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