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If Beale Street Could Talk

  • Starring: KiKi Layne, Stephan James, Regina King
  • Director: Barry Jenkins
  • Genre(s): Drama, Romance, Crime
  • Rating: R
  • Running Time: 119 min.

Set in early-1970s Harlem, If Beale Street Could Talk is a timeless and moving love story of both a couple’s unbreakable bond and the African-American family’s empowering embrace, as told through the eyes of 19-year old Tish Rivers (KiKi Layne). A daughter and wife-to-be, Tish vividly recalls the passion, respect and trust that have connected her and her artist fiancé Alonzo Hunt, who goes by the nickname Fonny (Stephan James). Friends since childhood, the devoted couple dream of a future together but their plans are derailed when Fonny is arrested for a crime he did not commit. Tish knows that Fonny is innocent, and is mindful that his good friend Daniel Carty (Brian Tyree Henry) has only recently been freed after an unjust incarceration. While Fonny’s mother (Aunjanue Ellis) clings to piety and his father (Michael Beach) grapples with feelings of powerlessness, Tish’s earthy father Joseph (Colman Domingo) and fierce older sister Ernestine (Teyonah Parris) are unwavering in their support. Even more anxious to clear Fonny’s name is Tish’s deeply compassionate mother Sharon (Regina King), readying to put herself on the line for her daughter and future son-in-law’s happiness…and for the couple’s unborn child, whose arrival will herald new joys and challenges. Facing the unexpected prospect of parenthood and holding down a job without her partner at her side, Tish must adjust her perspective on the realities of her existence. She visits Fonny regularly, trying to shore up his spirit even as prison takes its toll. As the weeks turn to months, Tish reaffirms their hopes and resilience, relying on familial and inner strength. [Annapurna Pictures]

"An intoxicating, intimate work from a born filmmaker, "If Beale Street Could Talk" is an elegant poem of a film."
- Adam Graham, Detroit News
"Some might view this as a political movie (perhaps even Jenkins) but it's also very much a tale of love, survival, and humanity."
- James Berardinelli, ReelViews
"The film is a bold and elegant celebration of young black love in the face of a Harlem rife with police corruption."
- Matt Donnelly, TheWrap
"A work of social realism elevated to poetic heights by the sheer beauty of its voice and the humanism of its spirit."
- Peter Debruge, Variety
"Barry Jenkins creates one of the year's 10 best films by celebrating black love and a human connection that can raise you up and move you to tears. Regina King's performance should finally get her the Oscar she's deserved for years."
- Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
"If Beale Street Could Talk is a film about injustice, about patience and anger, beauty and despair — but, ultimately, it’s about love. "
- Moira MacDonald, Seattle Times
"You've never seen romantic love depicted on screen with such lyrical and gorgeous intensity, or systemic injustice brought to such vivid and enraging life. Film classes will be taught about Jenkins' use of color."
- Glen Weldon, NPR
"This movie works as a timeless romance, a family drama, a legal thriller and a poignant social commentary. A great American novel has been turned into a great American film."
- Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times
"A period piece that feels beautifully and painfully present: beautifully because love stories are timeless, painfully because the spectacle of racial injustice feels up to date."
- Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal
"Deliberately paced, unapologetically mannered and contemplatively attuned, If Beale Street Could Talk invites audiences to venture beyond the screen in front of them to connect with the characters and their world on a deeper, more mystical plane. "
- Ann Hornaday, Washington Post
"Its power is in the way it says that injustice isn’t out of place in a heartwarming family drama; it’s part and parcel to these characters’ experience, to being black in America. Like the blues, Beale Street can soothe even as it tells a disturbing story. It’s easily one of the best of the year. "
- Vince Mancini, Uproxx
"In the movies, love is cheap. It’s everywhere and nowhere, too often reduced to a formula or a reward. Beale Street knows better. It restores to love, romantic and familial, its sanctity—an ambition that makes it one of the most distinctive love stories in recent memory. "
- Inkoo Kang, Slate
"If proof were needed that Barry Jenkins’s directing achievement was far from a one-off, it pulses and dances through every sequence of his follow-up, If Beale Street Could Talk, in all its gorgeous romantic melancholy and sublimated outrage. "
- Tim Robey, The Telegraph
"Weaving together the past and the present, masterful interpretations of Baldwin’s incredible prose, gorgeous visuals, and a sweeping score, If Beale Street Could Talk draws audiences into its overwhelming mix of emotions all at once. "
- Sarah Kurcha, Consequence of Sound
"It’s a perfect pairing of sensibilities; Jenkins and Baldwin share a nuanced, lyrical style that conveys the beauty and hope in even the most despairing of situations, with a focus on the emotional truths of their characters. Like the novel, the film is a love story, as well as a powerful indictment of systemic racism and the criminal-justice system. "
- Wendy R. Weinstein, Film Journal International

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