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Non-Review Review: If Beale Street Could Talk

If Beale Street Could Talk is a beautiful and poetic piece of work.

From a certain perspective, the film is poetic in too literal a sense. If Beale Street Could Talk is adapted from the work of James Baldwin, and conscious venerates its inspiration. The opening title card quotes from Baldwin’s introduction to the book, and makes a point to allow his name to linger on screen after the quote itself has faded from view. There are extended sequences of If Beale Street Could Talk that are lifted directly from the book, occasionally even laid over black-and-white photos from the era to underscore the broader social commentary.

Fonny how things end up…

This would normally be an issue in an adaptation of a beloved literary work, in the same way that certain adaptations of theatrical works can seem “stagey” like Fences or even Doubt. If Beale Street Could Talk is very lucky in its choice of director. Barry Jenkins is a fantastic visual storytelling, with a wonderful eye for composition and a breathtaking way of seeing the world that seems to bleed through the screen itself. For the most part, If Beale Street Could Talk benefits from Jenkins’ strong visual style working in tandem with Baldwin’s searing prose.

There are moments when one threatens to overwhelm the other, when Jenkins’ task of adapting Baldwin’s story for the screen brushes against the limitation of the form; a monologue just a little too arch, a tangent just a little bit too removed, a transition just a little too forced. However, these moments are few and far between, and If Beale Street Could Talk is a stunning piece of cinema.

A lover’s Tish.

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