- To give the reins of your film to an actor giving their feature film acting debut is something that could have its ups and downs, but Barry Jenkins does just that with KiKi Layne, and it’s in her innocent tenderness that pushes If Beale Street Could Talk to its glowing warmth. It’s Layne’s elegance that carries us through the film and it’s her composure that helps us feel many of her aching moments. By her side as her soulmate, “Fonny”, is Stephan James, who’s warm, worried eyes are something you can almost get lost in. As her mother, Sharon, is the phenomenal Regina King, who graciously treats kindness as both a strength and a discipline. As her father, Joseph, is Colman Domingo, who’s soulful boisterousness seemingly holds us all in a gentle, caring hug. But then there’s Brian Tyree Henry, who seamlessly pops into the film for a mere fifteen minutes and steals every last second of it. The devastating monologue that he delivers practically trembles the soul and knocks you on your behind. Through all this immaculate ensemble though, is an incredible lived-in quality, that simply hasn’t been matched all year.
- Barry Jenkins, to put it simply, has done it again with his sobering yet intoxicating adaptation of James Baldwin’s 1974 novel, If Beale Street Could Talk. Jenkins through his direction has soared a film that shouts and sings oh-so silently, with an incredible sensually visceral manner. It’s a film that lingers. It lingers in its romance, its aching sadness and its warm-blanket love of family. It’s a film where every so often we see our two lovers lock gazes with one another and the camera. Where Jenkins frames each one of them head-on; they stare into each other’s eyes, while we as well stare into theirs. The stillness of Jenkins’ vividly textured closeups, force its audience to slow their rhythms and practically adjust their way of seeing. In there quietly overpowering nature, Jenkins’ closeups become a reminder that there are few landscapes more expressive or everlasting than the human face.
- The screenplay from Jenkins continues to demonstrate an unusually sensitive eye for the overlooked, this time through a dreamy, sweeping nonlinear structure. It’s a screenplay and story that blurs past and present as artfully as it interweaves the political and the personal. It’s a screenplay that is causally contemplative and will never outright attempt to grab you, as it instead will carry you along in a floating manner, and along the way will give you small, strong sublime moments. It’s a film about the women affected by systematic oppression, after they are left behind after the men have faced the oppression. It’s a film of magnificent warmth, that’s a stunning achievement in lyrical storytelling, loaded with ravishing poetic visuals and a rich plea to find love in times of despair. It’s a pure cinematic encapsulation of a love letter.
- The cinematography by James Laxton gorgeously washes us with the colors of autumn. His vibrant saturation of the colors and his harmonious movement and framing of the camera is in all staggering, bringing forth the film its poetic, glowing generosity.
- The score by Nicholas Britell achingly caresses the soul. It’s a score that is moody, swirling and sumptuous in its Jazz ways. That’s in all, plain and simple, one of the most beautiful score of 2018.
- The production design by Mark Friedberg and the costume design by Caroline Eselin both bring an array of beautiful greens and yellows. The striking colors in all undeniably play a role in the storytelling, and only elevate the emotion of it all.