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If Beale Street Could Talk  (DVD)


Stars: KiKi Layne, Stephan James, Regina King, Colman Domingo, Teyonah Parris, Michael Beach, Aunjanue Ellis, Dave Franco, Diego Luna, Pedro Pascal

Director: Barry Jenkins

I haven't read James Baldwin's celebrated novel that serves as the inspiration for writer-director Jenkins' serendipitous follow-up to his deservedly Oscar-winning 2017 film Moonlight grippingly - and all-too-frequently and deservedly depressingly - charts the apparently never-to-be-accomplished battle by a pregnant African-American woman and her family to prove her child's wrongly'imprisoned father is innocent.

Jenkins' film hits hard and credibly today simply because the intrinsic racialism that was prevalent in the United States when Baldwin's novel was published in 1974 remains as potent as ever, as we follow the fates of Jenkins' two central protagonists - young Tish (KiKi Layne), happily pregnant by her childhood love Fonny (Stephan James) - whose expectation of happiness shrivels and dies when he is falsely accused of rape and jailed, leaving Tish and her parents fighting to clear him.

There are many times when Jenkins' film is quite uncomfortable to watch but, thanks in large measure to strong casting and fine performances throughout, it is never tedious and ultimately eminently worthwhile, both as justified polemic and as fine filmmaking.

Alan Frank

USA 2018. UK Distributor: entertainmentOne. Colour.
114 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 2, Swearing 3.

Review date: 18 Jun 2019