If Beale Street Could Talk: The Healing Power of Black Love in Cinema
The passing down of stories over time has created the fabric of our world. Infiltrating our collective consciousness as fact of ancestry, storytelling continues to be one of our most powerful devices for sharing information across generations–but what do you do if your stories have been divorced from their reality, the people in them transformed into caricatures, and your pathway back to yourself overgrown with the untended foliage of misinformation? If you’re Barry Jenkins, you decide to tell the story again, and tell it right.
If Beale Street Could Talk injects itself directly into the mainstream conversation about Blackness and instead of feeding harmful stereotypes or focusing on elements of adversity, the film pivots about itself, delivering imagery saturated with the nuances of love, compassion, and resilience that has long since disappeared from view.
Based on the story by James Baldwin, If Beale Street Could Talk intertwines the lives of Tish Rivers (KiKi Layne) and Alonzo “Fonny” Hunt (Stephan James), unfurling a collection of adolescent experiences based in new love: innocent childhood playdates melt into teenage intimacies, which bleed into vignettes of the two trying to plant their roots, and the eventual and wrongful conviction of Hunt for rape, culminating in a search for his retribution. It is a tale as familiar to us today as when the story was set, and yet manages to tell a love story that breaks from the stale, Eurocentric romanticism that has long engrossed American cinema. Jenkins’ masterful command of storytelling creates a space for transcendence from conventionality in the face of stagnance.
“So often we talk about love, and we just think that’s between a man and a woman...but in this you see the love story between sisters, a father and daughter, and two older men, and you see how love has gotten them through life. It’s just absolutely beautiful to me.”
If Beale Street Could Talk is a moment of reprieve and hope for Blackness in film. Beautifully conceived from the same mind that brought us untold stories of queer love, the film grounds itself at the apex of a new conversation about Blackness–one in which there is no room for pretense, no room for distortion, and room only for truth and healing, which we need now more than ever before.If Beale Street Could Talk hits theaters December 14th, 2018.