Bantucinema Movie Reviews: If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)
If Beale Street Could Talk
REVIEWED BY: BUCK RIVERS and CHEYENNE FINCH
Cinema Score: Buck (6/10) Cheyenne (9/10)
Enjoyment Score: Buck (8/10) Cheyenne (10/10)
Bantu Score: Purest Display of Black Love
If Beale Street Could Talk is probably the most beautiful presentation of Black Love in modern cinema. It perfectly encapsulates what it means to truly be committed to the one you love. In a world where the majority of Black representation involves turmoil and distrust, it is so refreshing to see a couple of young, dark skin, Black characters who are determined to be 100% FOR each other. This film is simply important, and gets a solid recommendation from both of the Bantus.
In terms of cinema, Beale Street is incredibly well shot. The film features quite a few extreme close-up shots that force you to feel the palpable emotion between the two leads. This plays into the themes of the film masterfully. It also serves to depict the more vulnerable side of Blackness. Rarely do we see Black Americans (especially Black men) with this much beauty. Far too often, Black men are shown as a blanket picture. In this film, we as an audience stare into the eyes of a Black man and see him for who he is.
The performances of Kiki Layne and Stephan James are wonderful. It is insane that this is Kiki Layne’s first feature film role, because she portrays her character without a single flaw. Stephan James plays his character with a gripping subtlety that presents us with a man who doesn’t need to be overly expressive to be unbelievably deep.
The script is well written and serves the style of the film well. Much of the dialogue gives you a classic cinema feel. When characters are speaking, you feel like this is a film that is coming out during the time period in which the characters live their lives. Some of their words are dramatic and a bit exaggerated, but it works. The script melds realistic emotion with slightly hyper-real verbal expression to a fault.
The only primary issue with this film is that much of it feels left unfinished. There are numerous characters who have great scenes but are never seen again. Multiple plot threads seem to end without a resolution and the finale of the film does leave you wishing you could see how things all transpired. The decision to have many time jumps back and forth between past and present wasn’t over done necessarily, but at times it does feel that a more linier method of storytelling would have allowed for us to feel some sense of resolution. This is backed up by the theme of the film, however. Nothing else matters but the love of the lead characters. The plot threads end, but their love remains.
If Beale Street Could Talk is a two-hour long piece of visual poetry on Black Love, and you’ll connect with it from start to finish. This film takes us into the relationship between two young black people in Harlem and shows us how true love can prevail through all hardships and tests. When you consider all of the obstacles Tish and Fonny have to conquer, from family to the entire system, you are truly given a front row seat to what love is supposed to be.
From scene to scene, this movie flows smoothly from making you laugh to making you cry. The emotional journey you encounter will never feel forced, but rather natural. If Beale Street Could Talk makes you think about love in your own life and the kind of love you may want for your own journey. It will teach you about vulnerability, sacrifice, strength, and so much more.
This is not just a movie for Black people, though all Black people especially should see it. It is a movie for everyone that has ever questioned whether or not someone loved them, if they loved someone, or if their relationship was strong enough to survive the chaos and trials that simply come with life.
We recommend this movie not only for entertainment purposes, though there are some hilarious scenes that will make you fall in love with the characters, but also for an important lesson on life and love.
This film is a much needed change in Black cinema. Black movies tend to focus on pain and suffering. Black movies tend to depict characters who are their own problems when it comes to their relationship. Our leads here have flaws but they never forget who they are toward one another. They never do anything to HURT each other. Movies usually show Black lives that are filled with dysfunction, lies, secrets, and hateful words. If Beale Street Could Talk is real when it comes to the world around our leads, but it never feels inclined to show us Black people who are subconsciously destroying themselves and each other for two hours. Love is what brought them to this point, and you leave the theater believing that they will break through any obstacles moving forward.
All in all, If Beale Street Could Talk is an inspiring display of Black love. It makes you think about how you show the people in your life what you really feel about them. It makes you laugh and cry and reflect on life. We recommend it wholeheartedly.
Please be sure to listen to Episode 36: If Bantus Could Stop Talking for our live thoughts and discussion. We do a deep dive into our personal lives, and express how we really feel about the pursuit of relationships and connections. Stay Woke, Stay Bantu!