“If Beale Street Could Talk”: Jenkins Strikes Again

Sydney Bembry, Contributing Writer

Barry Jenkins, director of the Oscar-winning film “Moonlight,” returns with the film adaptation of James Baldwin’s beloved novel, “If Beale Street Could Talk.” Narrated by Tish (Kiki Layne), the film follows her and Fonny (Stephan James), a young black couple in 1970s Harlem falling in love for the first time, while simultaneously weaving through time to explain why they have since been separated.

In both devastating and outrageous events, Fonny is wrongly charged for brutally raping a woman and is sent to jail, ripped away from Tish.

To increase the gravity of Tish and Fonny’s unjust separation, Tish soon discovers that she is pregnant with his child.

Tish, with the help of her family, must fight to save the love of her life from a doomed sentence while also carrying the weight of bringing a beautiful life into the world.

After delivering such a beautiful piece of art to world with the “Moonlight,” fans would have eagerly waited for any follow-up from Jenkins.

Baldwin is a figure so beloved that it was imperative that this film had to be put in the right person’s hands to give the novel, and its novelist, deserved justice. Within a few moments, it’s clear that Jenkins is that such person.

Unlike many filmmakers, Jenkins has the ability of illustrating love and affection in a way that doesn’t feel patronizing or any less real to the audience than to the characters on screen.

He allows for the viewer, with extensive help from the extraordinary actors, to absorb everything in the film — even if it’s something that requires deeper processing — like Tish and Fonny’s enraging situation.

We can joyfully grin watching two young people purely love each other and confusingly weep when they bring a gorgeous new life into a world that betrayed them with its injustice.

And while they are two very different films set in different time periods, it’s so apparent in every moment that it is a Barry Jenkins film.

Just as he did in his previous film, he holds an entire audience like few others can and doesn’t let go.