Director Barry Jenkins, whose Moonlight stunned the global film community when it took home the Best Picture Oscar in 2013 (remember envelope-gate?), made a triumphant return this week as his latest, If Beale Street Could Talk, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival to a steady stream of tears and cheers from audiences and rave reviews from some of the toughest critics on the planet. Based on James Baldwin’s 1974 masterpiece novel, Beale Street weaves a very particular love story with fabric spun from life’s sharpest spindle.
“Every poet is an optimist,” Baldwin told The Guardian in 1974. “But on the way to that optimism, you have to reach a certain level of despair to deal with your life at all.”
If Beale Street Could Talk
Despair, optimism, pain, joy… Beale Street has it all in the story of 19-year-old Tish and 22-year-old Fonny, whose love for one another knows no bounds. But when Fonny is wrongly accused of rape, an American tragedy unfolds. What follows is one of the most intimate, gut-punching portrayals of a working class African-American family that you’ll ever witness.
“We like to say there’s a Beale Street in every city,” Jenkins told the world premiere audience of his film.
Any city indeed. While watching If Beale Street Could Talk, I couldn’t help but think about Idaho’s ongoing debate over building more jails or prisons, where an historic disproportion of men and women of color spend a good chunk of their lives.
The film opens in North American theaters this November. It’s required viewing.