Review: If Beale Street Could Talk [Spoiler Free]

If Beale Street Could Talk Banner

Written & directed by Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) and based on the book by acclaimed civil rights activist and author, James Baldwin, If Beale Street Could Talk is a bittersweet tale of fighting for love and overcoming adversity, in the face of racial oppresion.

Set in early 1970’s Harlem, Tish (played by KiKi Layne), a nineteen-year-old girl, is in love with a young sculptor, Fonny (played by Stephan James), the father of her unborn child. When Fonny is falsely accused of rape and imprisoned, Tish and their families race to clear his name before the baby is born.

What is the price of love? And what is the cost of freedom? In what feels like insurmountable odds to overcome, these are questions asked of Tish & Fonny as they navigate through their blossoming relationship. Narrated by Tish, the film is a powerful introspective look at black love flourishing in a hostile environment.

Both Tish & Fonny’s families play a pivotal role as their support systems. And despite hardships faced by both families, at different points in the film, the lengths that they are willing to go to in order to a support Tish & Fonny make for some of the most heart warming moments in the film. Director, Barry Jenkins, does a great job in showcasing the strong familial bonds that exist within their respective families, and also the fraught relationship that Tish & Fonny’s families have for each other.

Facing racism

Whilst racism is an everyday reality faced by Tish & Fonny, director, Barry Jenkins highlights many of the nuanced ways this manifests – not simply through a corrupt legal system. We are given a front seat to see the racial dynamics at play in Tish’s job, through how her customers & colleagues interact with her and even though the couple’s frustration, due to the discrimination they face in finding a home.

However, we are also shown the allies that exist in other parts of their community. Each of these key moments where they are helped by other members of the community plays an important role in shaping how the story unfolds.

Although racism is something they experience, their characters are not simply defined by it. This is a testament to the care in how both lead characters have been crafted. Tish and Fonny have their own clear dreams and aspirations, and director Barry Jenkins has done a fantastic job in showing how their relationship matures over the course of the film.

Love conquers all?

It’s hard not to be emotionally invested in Tish & Fonny by the end of the film, you want them both to succeed – individually and as a couple. With lush cinematography and flawless storytelling If Beale Street Could Talk is incredible from start to finish. Although the ending of the film is bittersweet it is nonetheless a very powerful one. Visually, the film is stunning where it needs to be and yet suitably understated where it serves the interest of the story. Can love truly conquer all? You’ll have to watch the film to find out.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

If Beale Street Could Talk is an amazing film which will shape African American cinema moving forward, but also serves as a powerful love story for all to enjoy.

If Beale Street Could Talk is out in cinemas now.

If Beale Street Could Talk (Trailer)
Posted by
Presh Williams

A lover of all types of films: from micro-budget indies to major studio films. It's the story that counts. Co-Founder of Big Picture Film Club and Cinnect.