Lyric Review: ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ deserves your attention

Ty Davis

It would not come as much of a surprise to learn many of you did not see “If Beale Street Could Talk,” let alone heard of it. The Film released on Christmas, which typically means the studio could not decide on a time when to release it due to uncertainty of how it would perform. However, releasing it in December has almost insured the film would underperform in the box office, as it has only earned $8 million of its $12 million budget as of this review.

“If Beale Street Could Talk” deserves more than the hand it was dealt. Despite coming out towards the end of one the busiest years in recent film history “Beale Street” is easily one of the best films of 2018.


The film comes courtesy of Barry Jenkins who previously directed Moonlight and adapted “Beale Street” from the James Baldwin novel of the same name. The film, set in early 70s Harlem, centers around Tish Rivers (Kiki Layne) and Alonzo Hunt (Stephan James) through the progression of their relationship from childhood friends, to dating, etc. The movie starts with Tiff visiting Alonzo in jail to deliver the news that she is pregnant. With false charges against Alonzo, Tiff and her family begin proving Alonzo’s innocence with their lawyer Hayward (Finn Wittrock) but steadily encounter more impediments that only serve to make the situation more difficult.

Events don’t work out in these neat, straight-forward, solutions, in fact, plan completely fall through like in real life.

The film switches between moments before Alonzo’s imprisonment and after, giving us a clear picture of both the relationship that was starting and how their relationship develops afterward. Despite dealing with dark subject matter like rape, government corruption, and police brutality, “Beale Street” is decisively a love story, but a love story with disregard for following traditional love story beats.

The main characters don’t follow traditional love story setups. The situations are not pristine love story predicaments, and the central antagonist is not a cartoonish, melodramatic, force bent on keeping the couple separated. Instead, every hurdle is a very real problem that behaves like a real situation and cannot be easily solved. These are financial struggles, discrimination and trauma that will not go away with a few plot solutions. Events don’t work out in these neat, straightforward solutions. In fact, plans completely fall through like in real life.

Yet, the movie works as result of these real problems, not in spite of them. It is because the main characters keep trying despite everything set against them that makes this such as remarkably beautiful story. Their persistence to keep their love for each other despite the worst possible situations. Everything culminates in an ending where everything does not perfectly work out, but it is in this bitter-sweetness that results in a subtle beauty. It is clear why this work has earned its endearing legacy.

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