If Beale Street could talk (2018)

If Beale Street Could Talk

Tish (Kiki Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James)

There is so much rarity that oozes out of If Beale Street could talk that at times it is hard to describe. Here is a romantic drama that does not rely on fantasies or hopes but on the pluses and minuses of reality. No other tag line has rung more true for a 2018 film: “Trust love all the way”.

Based off the book (which I am hoping to read soon) by James Baldwin and written for the screen by director Barry Jenkins (whose last film, Moonlight, won the Oscar for Best Picture), we meet the young lovers Tish (Kiki Layne) and Alfonso (Stephan James), or “Fonny”. She is 19. He is 22. They have known each other since they could take their first bath together as kids. Their lives in  New York are marred with troubles, but they remain faithful, even when Fonny is arrested for a crime he did not commit. Things get a little more complicated when we find out that Tish is pregnant. While her family is supportive, his family is…well, to say they are against it is putting it very mildly. The scene between the two families sets the absolute mood of the film.

The movie is told sometimes in flashback (as told by Tish), showing her relationship with Fonny before his arrest. The rest shows their attempts to get Fonny out of jail, but certain complications arise (and they don’t come cheap). Thankfully, Tish has very supporting parents. While her  dad Joseph (Colman Domingo) is there for his daughter, it is clearly the mother, Sharon (Regina King) who is the should Tish leans on the most. Every scene King is in explodes with talent, proving she is a strong contender for best supporting actress in the next few months. That would not be the films only nomination, as it also has possibly the best musical score I have heard in 2018.

The film also supplies other strong performances, but the crystal clear heart of the film is the chemistry between the two young leads. Layne plays Tish as soft-spoken, but not one who will let you step on her toes. James allows us to see Fonny (as Tish hopes all call him) as a young man who knows the hardships of life, but still is kind-hearted.

Parents, the movie is rated R, and should be. While there is a lot of swearing (including racial slurs), there is not much violence. There is, however, one of the more longer sex scenes (nearly five to seven minutes) that occurs and has nudity. Mature High Schoolers and up.

There are some parts of the movie that seem a little off (I am not sure yet how I feel about the trip that Tish’s mother makes, despite how undoubtably heartfelt it is), and the outcome of the movie may not be for everyone. I was fine with it. The message was simple: Even in the worst of circumstances, you must, in all honesty, trust love. All the way.

 

Overall: Four and a Half Stars **** 1/2

Irreplaceable You (2018)

Irreplaceable You

Abbie(Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and Sam (Michiel Huisman)

” I enjoy hanging with you. It’s interesting. You’re like a slow-moving car crash” – Myron (Christopher Walken) to Abbie.

No, this dialogue from Irreplaceable You is not between the main couple of Abbie (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and Sam (Michiel Huisman), which is all that can be said positive about the dialogue. It was at this point in the 1 hour and 36 minute film that I realized it was the best way I could describe this tear-jerker (a Netflix original) that does not generate any tears it so badly wishes we in the audience will supply them.

For the record, the movie does tell us what will happen at the end of the film in the first few minutes (even before the credits role). Therefore, a SPOILER WARNING  as we find out right away that Abbie will have died by the end of the film. END SPOILER.

The film is narrated by Abbie, who has been dating Sam since she sunk her teeth into him on a field trip to the aquarium when they were about 8 years old. So….love at first bite? We learn off the bat that Sam and Abbie plan to be married, since they are about to get the final word from the doctor of what is almost assuredly Abbie being pregnant. Turns out, it is not a pregnancy, but a cancerous tumor.

Ok, I understand that people can face cancer in many different ways (I have seen my share of this with friends and family in my life). I say this because Abbie tries to take it with a smile, still trying desperately to be optimistic. What confuses me is how almost everyone else in the movie is doing the same thing. One such person is the nurse (Timothy Simons)  Abbie talks to while getting chemotherapy. The support group (where she meets Myron) is not much better, as leader Mitch (Steve Coogan) is trying to make all seem relaxed yet allowing members to speak their minds (and a lot of crocheting.)

The movie really goes downhill, though, when we learn what Abbie’s coping mechanism is: Try to find a right girl for Sam to be with after Abbie has died. Again, I understand that a lot of people have their own ways of dealing with tragedy like this, but I could not help thinking that this just seems too wrong and out-of-place. While I felt bad for most of the talented cast, none got more sympathy from me than Gugu Mbatha-Raw. She is truly a talented actor, in dire need of better material than this.

Parents, there is not anything too terrible here for kids middle school and up (besides the obvious melodrama). No real sexual content (aside from kissing in bed, but the characters are clothed). There is a good amount of swearing, however, including a few F bombs.

It is always refreshing to have great movies about romance sooth the hopeless romantic in me. That being said, I am confident I can think of a dozen films off the top of my head that make Irreplaceable You completely replaceable.

 

Overall: One and a Half Stars 1 1/2 *