Film review: If Beale Street Could Talk (Director: Barry Jenkins)
By Sascha Krieger
Dream and reality: In the opening moments of Barry Jenkins‘ new film, they clash with a ferocious matter-of-factness that will make the unsuspecting viewer draw their breath. A quietly poetic apotheosis of love in warm colours and in almost otherworldly imagery gives way to the cold efficiency of a prison visitors area. The protagonists in both scenes are the same: 19-year-old Tish and 22-year-old Fonny, lovers, soon-to-be parents, the latter falsely accused by a racist cop and a matching justice system of a rape he cannot have committed. the way, Jenkins, fresh off his Oscar triumph Moonlight, juxtaposes the two realities, the harsh one of racist America and the too-good-to-be-true variety of young love, so extraordinary and fragile when you happen to be black, invokes the same sense of poetic transcendence coupled with unapologetic realism that made Moonlight such a miracle. Like James Baldwin’s must-read book, the film intertwines both levels: the now in patient, matter-of-fact, quietly framed images exuding a kindness that comes from accepting reality, the same acceptance Tish’s family has learned and translates into a stubbornness that cannot fail to move; and the then, drenched in warmer, more fuzzy colours, driven by the dream-like music of Nicholas Brittell, that seems to be suspended somewhere in the in-between of love, and a gently dynamic imagery with camera zooming in, hovering above and around entangling its objects in a loving gaze that borders on the dream-like.