14 October 2018 | bastille-852-731547
Jenkins' Adaptation of James Baldwin is Deeply Powerful
Two years after sending shockwaves through the film world with "Moonlight," which went on to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards, Barry Jenkins is back with "If Beale Street Could Talk." Needless to say, the film is excellent and is everything one could hope a follow-up to "Moonlight" would be. The film follows a young African-American couple in Harlem before and during when the man is wrongfully accused of sexual assault. While such difficult subject matter could feel slightly tone-deaf to some in the era of #MeToo, viewers should rest assured that Jenkins handles the material with a delicate and incredibly thoughtful sense of sensitivity. Like "Moonlight," the film's aesthetic qualities feel almost lyrical in tone, which is a beautiful sight to behold. The score is also superb as well, managing to be both quietly rousing and emotionally stirring.
Jenkins' technique of characterizing the setting or settings where his films are set is put to great use here. New York City feels almost like a character in this film, as it adds a rich tapestry to the film's narrative. This sense is heightened further when paired with a meticulous sound design, where even simple and day-to-day sounds like a subway car rolling into the station enhance the viewing experience. The acting is strong and quietly powerful from beginning to end, and the amount of thoughtful character development that Jenkins deploys throughout the story's narrative is commendable. The same can be said to the film's frequent use of narration. In many other films, this could have come off as annoying, but the film uses this tactic to great ends here by primarily using it to enhance the audience's emotional connection to the characters. Such a connection further builds up the powerful nature of the film's narrative, which makes a powerful and deeply tragic statement on the nature of racism without ever resorting to feeling heavy-handed by the end. I will note that the film does take some time to get going and has a few minor redundancies in its beginning scenes. But otherwise, this film is superb and on par with "Moonlight" in quality. Baldwin's prose is not just honored in this film, but it is cherished. 9/10