I love this time of year. Awards season is in full swing, and the countdown to the Oscars is on (27 days). As I do every year, I try to see as many of the nominated movies as I can. This weekend I saw If Beale Street Could Talk. I knew three things about the film before going into the theater: (1) It's based on James Baldwin's book If Beale Street Could Talk, (2) It's directed by Barry Jenkins, who also directed Moonlight, and (3) Regina King has already won the Golden Globe and Critic's Choice Award for her performance.
The movie tells the story of a young couple living in Harlem in New York City during the 1970s. Tish, played by the stunningly beautiful Kiki Layne, falls for her childhood best friend, Fonny, played by Stephan James (who you may recognize from Homecoming on Amazon).
As their romance blossoms, Fonny finds himself wrongly accused of a crime, which lands him in prison.
On one of her first visits to see Fonny, Tish has to break the news that she's pregnant. She puts on a brave face, and hopes he will be released before the baby is born. As the months wear on, Tish continues to visit, and eventually has to make peace with the fact that she will be bringing this child into the world alone.
I was keeping an extra close eye on Regina King, who plays Tish's mother, because I wanted to witness her award-winning performance.
In the film, she is fiercely committed to her daughter, her grandchild, and proving Fonny's innocence so the family can be reunited. While she doesn't have a tremendous amount of time on screen, she embodies empathy with every word she says and every choice she makes.
For me, the pace of the film was very slow. It felt like a moving poem - emotional, poignant and deeply personal.
Doreen St. Felix wrote in her review for The New Yorker, "Beale Street is an undeniably beautiful film. In the very first scene, our lovers, Tish (KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James), glide hand in hand through a park. It is autumn in New York, and nature is conspiring with the young lovers: the yellow of the leaves matches the yellow of their outfits. Jenkins has a symphonic devotion to the wordless visual monologue, delivered through the miracle of the human face. Tish and Fonny are gorgeous in an abstracted, mythological sense, as if he were the first man and she the first woman on earth."
The beauty of Beale Street is being recognized with three Oscar nominations: Regina King for Best Supporting Actress, Barry Jenkins for Best Adapted Screenplay, and Nicholas Britell for Best Original Score.
Tell me, did you see the movie? What did you think?