Director: Barry Jenkins Starring: KiKi Layne, Stephan James, Regina King Running Time: 117 minutes
“I hope that nobody has ever had to look at anybody they love through glass.”
The words of James Baldwin, from a character that sadly knows that plenty have had to look at someone they love through glass, or through some restriction or another, few, if any, deserving to have their full hearts clutched by oppressive fists. As a writer who felt even harder than he thought and had too many of his own restrictions, it’s hard to blame the writer for his frustrations that ignored that pathos. Writing about the cinema of his time that aimed to show the black experience, socially active author Baldwin only ever found it inadequate. Their feel-good narratives rang false, tripping gracelessly over themselves to reassure and reframe for guiltily ignorant, or ignorantly guilty, white audiences. We can’t speak for Baldwin, but in adapting his novel If Beale Street Could Talk, Barry Jenkins has clearly and skillfully endeavoured to present a lived experience that is genuine, lives that feel real, and a lush love story that is all the more enriched by that effort to be genuine.