If Beale Street Could Talk

In Cinemas Now

Trust love all the way.

A Harlem woman scrambles to prove her fiancé's innocence while carrying their first child in this drama from Oscar-winning Moonlight writer-director Barry Jenkins, based on the novel by James Baldwin (whose observations on civil rights and American racism formed the backbone of Oscar-nominated documentary I Am Not Your Negro).

Co-star Regina King picked up an Oscar and Golden Globe for her supporting role, and is nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar along with the film's other potential Academy Awards, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Score.

"Tish (KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James) have known each other since childhood, but only latterly discovered that the safe, easy familiarity between them has bloomed into a love so intoxicating it promises everlasting joy and happiness. But life is not destined to be so easy for a young black couple living in 1970s Harlem. Fonny is falsely accused of a rape and an unjust judicial system refuses to acknowledge the impossibility of his having committed the crime. Tish and her family struggle to exonerate him." (London Film Festival)

Trailers

Awards

Best Supporting Actress (Regina King), Golden Globes 2019 & Academy Awards 2019

Directed by

Written by

  • Barry Jenkins
  • (based on the novel of the same name by James Baldwin)

Crime, Drama

117mins

Rating: MA15+ Strong coarse language

USA

Aaron-Yap2

Aaron Yap

flicks

Every bit as quietly rapturous as his breakthrough 2016 Oscar champ Moonlight, Barry Jenkins’ follow-up adapts James Baldwin’s novel If Beale Street Could Talk into a stirring, compassionate, beautifully performed expression of communal struggle in 1970s Harlem. It’s told via the quotidian framework of a budding romance between two childhood friends—19-year-old Tish (KiKi Layne) and 22-year-old Fonny (Stephan James)—that’s derailed when a false rape accusation lands Fonny in prison.

“The game is rigged,” Tish ruminates in her wise, plainspoken voice-over, devastatingly aware, as the couple are expecting a child, that the cards have been stacked against them since birth. But amid the dehumanising social injustices, pockets of humour, hope and tenderness endure, and it’s this layered emotional palette that Jenkins colours the black experience with. It’s a work powered by a resilient, humane glow that complements the courage and ache of its source prose.

While looser in construction than Moonlight—it’s more prone to temporal and tonal hopping—Beale Street never loses sight of its dramatic throughline, with Jenkins navigating spaces of intimacy, memory, family and adversity with a profoundly empathetic eye. For a film with the indelible effects of racial oppression coursing through its veins, it doesn’t feel shackled.

The formal elegance on display fills, and sometimes overwhelms, the heart. The lush bursts of Sirkian colour. James Laxton’s gorgeous camerawork, rhapsodic in its celebration of black portraiture. Nicholas Britell’s sublime score, swooning to the lovebirds, steeped in a time and place. Jenkins imbues the text’s polemic contours with the richly pulsating sensations of a life not upended by pain and hardship, but strengthened by the will to adapt and overcome.

Collider

press

You can see the broad outline of what Jenkins wanted to accomplish with If Beale Street Could Talk, but the inside is hollow.

The Times (UK)

press

If Beale Street Could Talk becomes a chronicle of crushed innocence and systemic injustice, but also a poetic paean to the healing power of love.

Vanity Fair

press

The strength of KiKi Layne's performance is in how wonderfully it toes the line between youth and wisdom, helplessness and self-determination.

Los Angeles Times

press

Are you in the mood for love yet? Jenkins' movie will put you there.

Hollywood Reporter

press

If the movie's slow burn seems to build toward a powerful release that doesn't materialise, the sheer beauty of its craft and the heartfelt feeling behind every scene nonetheless command attention.

Variety (USA)

press

A work of social realism elevated to poetic heights by the sheer beauty of its voice and the humanism of its spirit...

The Guardian

press

It's a film with love at its root, both familial and romantic, and Jenkins fills so much of it with a radiating warmth.

Stuff.co.nz (James Croot)

press

Strip away the stylistic flourishes and the result is a familial and political drama that's dramatically the equal of Lee Daniel's Precious or Kathryn Bigelow's Detroit.

Baldwin will be spinning in his grave

An over-rich, sentimental telling of an ugly tragic story. It lacks Balwin's acid irony - the film only comes to life when he is directly quoted. It looks gorgeous, the cinematography faultless, the soundscape is brilliant, the acting committed but whereas I wanted Moonlight to go on forever, I just wanted this to end.


Well-acted, but slow and drawn out

This movie is well-acted by every member of the cast, but it is kind of slow and drawn out. It also jumps about quite a lot and leaves out some important details, which kind of make it feel like something is missing.


false

beautiful story and also very heartbreaking, but as some good funny parts also. and definitely a story we need to see and hear of more often.

SweetP

SweetP

user


BEALE ST COULD HAVE BEEN CALLED REAL ST

Very true to life. Gets you thinking. Great acting.

LauraC

LauraC

user


false

Heartbreaking but beautiful


Thoroughly enjoyable!

Great movie, with many layers to think about, a good few laughs, lots of love and emotion. Definitely worth a watch, and worthy of the great press its received.


false

Beautiful if a little staid


A film that resonates with such clarity and beauty.

A film about love and kindness and hate and evil that doesn't manipulate or talk down to the audience. So much unspoken, plenty unseen. Barry Jenkins knows how to film love using all of the cinematic elements available to him. Once again a pitch perfect score that doesn't dominate but perfectly accompanies the beautiful cinematography and gentle acting. Long may he continue to make films, films that resonate with such clarity and beauty.