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Every so often, a piece of art emerges that changes the game. Sometimes it is so subtle that it is missed in the moment. Years later, people look back and speak of that art as “a classic.” That is what we’re experiencing with “If Beale Street Could Talk,” Barry Jenkins’ first film after his Oscar-winning “Moonlight.” It is the film that so many of us in the black community have been waiting for: a depiction of black life and black love, told unapologetically. A story of hope that is at once universal and also deeply specific.
Set in early 1970s Harlem, “Beale Street” 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.
Core - Beale - Street - Story - Love
At its core, “Beale Street” is a story of love and resilience, of a familial community tested yet again by America’s reality, and resolving to rise above. Jenkins is a maestro who conducts emotions to a feverish crescendo and then eases them into a soulful denouement. But the ending, when it comes, is not wrapped with a pretty bow. One is left with a cacophony of feelings to unpack and process. How wonderful it is that art is still being created that makes us feel: Feel seen, feel loved, feel hurt, feel community.
Entertainment is experiential: We want to see, to hear, to feel. Many go to the movies for escapism....
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