What if? What if not? What if the walls could talk? What about the streets? How much information can a house keep? What can we tell or cannot tell? Can we hear what we say, or do we just decide to keep quiet? Such questions always exist. I did not have to think twice when I heard the title of this movie called, “If Beale Street Could Talk.” I did not have to know who directed it, whether it is based on some famous novel, written article in New York Times, or a biopic. The movie with such a name always has something interesting to offer, mostly a mysterious and peculiar subject matter. And I could not have been happier when I was right with the choice I made.
“If Beale Street Could Talk” is based on James Baldwin’s poignant novel and centers around the 19-year-old woman who fights against all odds to have her future husband released from the prison he was sent to after false accusations of rape. The movie offers a flashback scene showing the relationship between Tish and Fonny, how their love would grow stronger with every passing day in the same way racism and social injustice would grow alongside against African-Americans.
Adapted by Barry Jenkins, this movie truly has the power to connect with the audience’s mind and find a special place in their hearts. For instance, when the movie begins, the original score of Nicholas Britell begins its mission by bringing drama before it occurs. But it never has the intention to manipulate or force the viewer to feel through the score what the film is not capable of doing. Then we find Tish and Fonny holding hands in the park, when we hear Tish narrating her own story, where she begins telling her tale with, “I would never want anyone to see their loved ones through the glass,” suggesting the prison glasses that separates an inmate from the free world.
We already know that Fonny has been sent to prison because of the color of his skin. However, what really happens is something the viewer must draw his attention to. Jenkins subtly approaches the subject matter by letting the story unfold itself. Yes, it’s a bit slow, but never too slow to make you worry about it. In fact, it is necessary for the plot, to understand better the depth of problem, while Tish carries Fonny’s child in her heart.
“If Beale Street Could Talk” has what “Moonlight” was completely lacking – heart, soul, good intentions, no manipulations, remarkable performances, beautiful score, and of course a very notable direction from Barry Jenkins who embraced the novel fully and managed to adapt it in such a away, trust me, even the most insensitive or indifferent viewer will start caring about each character you meet throughout.
And as for the story itself, it’s compelling, deep and important. It must be seen, learned and passed along to the younger generation so as to know who we were and who should we never become – discriminating people based on their social status, the color of their skin, continent they live in, or whether they are rich or poor. And if Beale street or any other street from the past could talk, oh trust me, perhaps, without a glass of whiskey or holding back tears, it would not be able to start telling about the shameful past we must never forget.