The cinematic history of the Black experience has always leaned heavily toward our resilience. In 2018 alone, cinephiles and casual movie-goers have watched feature films that illustrate our triumphs, our generational struggles and a myriad of social injustices against us. The pure love and support intricately woven into our stories are often a forgotten element throughout our narrative. However, director Barry Jenkins highlights the power of our love in his adaptation of James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk.
Translated from the 1974 novel to a transcendent, visual masterpiece, If Beale Street Could Talk is a moving film about black love in its purest, most heartwarming form. The movie stars radiantly beautiful KiKi Layne (Tish Rivers) and Stephan James (Fonny Hunt) at its center—two lovebirds whose faith is tested when Fonny is falsely accused of rape. While he awaits trial behind bars, Tish finds out she’s pregnant as she fights for her love’s freedom with the help of her family, played by Regina King, Colman Domingo, Teyonah Parris and others in this extraordinary ensemble cast. “[It’s] just a very pure love story between two young Black people,” Jenkins tells ESSENCE of the remarkable story. “We just don’t see that told about our people very often with the care that Mr. Baldwin does.”
While politics plays an integral part in the unpacking of If Beale Street Could Talk, it is the overpowering feeling of affection, deep adoration and painstaking devotion, both romantic and familial, that is the driving force of the film——and the root of who we are.
Watch as Barry Jenkins touches on the importance of If Beale Street Could Talk and what it illustrates about the Black experience.