African-American director Barry Jenkins’ film Moonlight won several Oscars in 2017 for its memorable portrayal of a black homosexual dealing with his feelings. Based on a story by African-American writer James Baldwin, Jenkins’ latest film If Beale Street Could Talk also looks at the lives of young black Americans. Set in 1970s New York, it shows Fonny (Stephan James) and Tish (KiKi Layne) as a young couple struggling against all odds to make their love work.
The story could easily have been written as an American tragedy: Tish is pregnant and Fonny has been unfairly accused of rape. Her family is supportive, his is more critical. But Baldwin’s novel was inspired by hope: hope and confidence in the best of what humans can be. Hate, prejudice, domestic abuse and poverty all play their roles, but these negatives disappear behind the brilliance of the central characters. As in Moonlight, Jenkins uses music and the camera to support an atmosphere in which Tish and Fonny simply believe in love. Their faith in each other and in the possibility of passing their love onto the next generation just is. It takes the audience into a real, now-time experience that will make you feel. And then, it will make you think.
Starts March 7.