“Beale Street is a street in New Orleans, where my father, where Louis Armstrong and the jazz were born.
“Every black person born in America was born on Beale Street, born in the black neighbourhood of some American city, whether in Jackson, Mississippi, or in Harlem, New York. Beale Street is our legacy”
These words were written by James Baldwin, author of the book, If Beale Street Could Talk. The movie version of the book is set in 1970’s Harlem, New York, but could easily have been set in any major American city in the early 1970’s. It is a love story about a young couple hopelessly in love and also of the love of parents, who would do anything for their children. Tish (screen newcomer KiKi Layne) is engaged to Alonzo Hunt (Stephan James) who goes by the nickname Fonny. Tish’s and Fonny’s dreams of a future together are shattered when Fonny is arrested for a crime he did not commit.
The 1970’s images look real and the performances from the actors are superb. While Tish’s family appear to be relatively happy, there is an underlying sadness and suffering taking place, even more so once Fonny is arrested.
The movie moves slowly, changing from the “current time” to the past and then back again often, but not in a confusing way. It grabs you and won’t let you go till the surprising, but once you think about it, totally expected ending which will leave you angry.
If Beale Street Could Talk is only director Barry Jenkins second movie, the first being 2017’s beautiful Moonlight. Barry doesn’t pull any punches on the American legal system of the 1970’s (and indeed still in today’s world) with this film.
Beale Street is a love story, a powerful love story between two lost people living in a black man’s world in a white man’s country. It could almost be the modern-day Romeo and Juliet.
An emotional movie which will draw you in and will haunt you for days after.