If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)


Critic Consensus: If Beale Street Could Talk honors its source material with a beautifully filmed adaptation that finds director Barry Jenkins further strengthening his visual and narrative craft.


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Movie Info

Set in early-1970s Harlem, If Beale Street Could Talk is a timeless and moving love story of both a couple's unbreakable bond and the African-American family's empowering embrace, as told through the eyes of 19-year-old Tish Rivers (screen newcomer KiKi Layne). A daughter and wife-to-be, Tish vividly recalls the passion, respect and trust that have connected her and her artist fiancé Alonzo Hunt, who goes by the nickname Fonny (Stephan James). Friends since childhood, the devoted couple dream of a future together but their plans are derailed when Fonny is arrested for a crime he did not commit. Through the unique intimacy and power of cinema, If Beale Street Could Talk honors the author's prescient words and imagery, charting the emotional currents navigated in an unforgiving and racially biased world as the filmmaker poetically crosses time frames to show how love and humanity endure.


KiKi Layne
as Tish Rivers
Colman Domingo
as Joseph Rivers
Teyonah Parris
as Ernestine Rivers
Brian Tyree Henry
as Daniel Carty
Michael Beach
as Frank Hunt
Ed Skrein
as Officer Bell
Diego Luna
as Pedrocito
Pedro Pascal
as Pietro Alvarez
Aunjanue Ellis
as Mrs. Hunt
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Critic Reviews for If Beale Street Could Talk

All Critics (120) | Top Critics (23)

A period piece that feels beautifully and painfully present: beautifully because love stories are timeless, painfully because the spectacle of racial injustice feels up to date.

Dec 14, 2018 | Full Review…

[Barry Jenkins] wants to move us on an intuitive level that reaches beyond conventional storytelling. It's an admirable ambition, but what he offers in its place is often so lush and sentimentalized that it wafts off the screen.

Dec 14, 2018 | Rating: B | Full Review…

"Beale Street" is never less than righteous but can feel a little slow.

Dec 14, 2018 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

The scenes come alive even more thanks to Nicholas Britell's gorgeous score, laden with sweeping strings and brass melodies.

Dec 13, 2018 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
USA Today
Top Critic

If Beale Street Could Talk is at once a tribute to love and a call for its defense against racist hatred, all told in an artfully composed tragedy.

Dec 13, 2018 | Full Review…
Top Critic

Barry Jenkins creates one of the year's 10 best films by celebrating black love and a human connection that can raise you up and move you to tears. Regina King's performance should finally get her the Oscar she's deserved for years.

Dec 13, 2018 | Rating: 4.5/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for If Beale Street Could Talk


Though not familiar with writer James Baldwin's work in October of 2016 I found myself suddenly taken with the work of a young director who'd only just directed his second feature after a near eight year break in between his first and second films that I'm sure was anything but a break. Barry Jenkins' Moonlight, the eventual Best Picture winner for 2017, was a film that kept knocking at my brain for days after seeing it. It only seems fitting then that Jenkins' follow-up to that much heralded work is a piece that not only requires patience and trust on its journey, but one that is simultaneously so simplistic yet contains mountains of emotions and social commentary aching to be unpacked; ideas, inclinations, and images that will continue to resonate in my mind for days upon days. If Beale Street Could Talk, adapted from Baldwin's 1974 novel of the same name, is a meditation session of a movie, but in this sense it is also wholly an experience as well. There is story if not sporadic plot points that guide the viewer through the series of themes Jenkins is keen on communicating, but these plot points seem more present for the benefit of the conditioned viewer than they are for the sake of the film saying what it wants to say. Jenkins doesn't necessarily need traditional structure to convey what he wants to convey as he proved in Moonlight with his triptych approach, but with Beale Street there are really only three whole scenes in the film while the rest of it is more montages or anecdotes that essentially swirl around these three major moments to create a deeper context for the more full, finite scenes that pinpoint the beginning, middle, and end of the film. It's an interesting way to approach story and it uniquely conveys the sense of feeling and emotion the film wants to relay better than it would were it trying to do the same thing through a more straightforward technique. Of course, with what is more of a loose, jazz-inspired structure the viewer is fed little bits of information at a time from different stages in these characters' lives, but it is through the power of how Jenkins and his editors, Joi McMillon and Nat Sanders, weave the layers of the story of Tish (KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James) together that not only do we become convinced of their love for one another, but we are convinced further by their friendship and, as a result, that they are meant to be; soulmates, if you will, separated through injustice, but never truly divided. read the whole review at www.reviewsfromabed.com

Philip Price
Philip Price

Super Reviewer

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