Critics Agree: ‘Moonlight’ Director Barry Jenkins’ Take On James Baldwins’ “Beale Street” Is Complex & Alluring

Barry Jenkins / Image via Instagram @bandrybarry

Reviews of If Beale Street Could Talk are coming in, and many are already calling for Oscar nominations.

Director Barry Jenkins has already made history by creating the first English-language film adaption of a James Baldwin novel, but will he be celebrated for making a good film too? It looks like it.

Despite James Baldwin being a popular black and gay writer during the civil rights era, one who befriended/influenced several creatives and political leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Medgar Evers, Hollywood never adapted any of his works.

Thankfully, Barry Jenkins, the director of Moonlight which won the 2017 Oscar award for Best Picture, is changing that.

Jenkins’ has written and directed an adaption of James Baldwins’ 1974 novel If Beale Street Could Talk. The story is set in Harlem and focuses on the intense racial conflict at the time.





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The film specifically centers around two lovers named Tish and Fonny (played by newcomer Kiki Layne and Homecoming's Stephan James respectively). At the start of the story, Tish and Fonny’s young love is split apart by an accusation that thrusts Fonny in jail. As he is imprisoned, Tish is pregnant and looks towards her mother, played by Regina King, to investigate the case and save Fonny.

While the story does not depict or celebrate same-sex love, it is one created by two gay, black men. And if that wasn’t enough, their message of spirited love in the face of adversity is one that all gay men can enjoy.

Reviews for the film have praised the movie for it’s complex look at race issues and depictions of love and hate.

“The movie works so well because of its attention to detail, unwillingness to embrace easy answers and resistance to painting with a too-broad brush. When the couple has trouble finding a landlord who'll rent to them, or encounter a racist cop, they also find moments of kindness and grace — including a white landlord who says all he cares about is seeing people who are happy together,” said CNN.

“Hatred, poverty, and deadly menace shadow virtually every plot point in the film, follow the characters into the furthest recesses of their intimacy and inwardness, impose an exhausting alertness and a dreadful fear as the baseline condition of living while black. The mighty love that the movie depicts is itself a mode of resistance —a necessary one, perhaps, but not a sufficient one,” wrote the New Yorker.

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“Another Remarkable and Unforgettable film by Barry Jenkins!! Dir. of Moonlight. Based on a novel written by Our Lord James Baldwin! Amazing Actors! Gorgeous cinematography and camera work.

"Score insanely beautiful! So many great messages. Out on November30th! Run to see it! thank you #bandrybarry #bealestreet #ifbealestreetcouldtalk #annapurnapics #jamesbaldwin ” wrote Madonna on Instagram.

Not to mention, the film already has 3 Golden Globe nominations for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama (Regina King), Best Screenplay (Barry Jenkins), and Best Picture.

If you’re interested in seeing the film for yourself and gaining your own opinion about it, If Beale Street Could Talk releases in the US on December 25th.

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