if beALE STREET COULD TALK (2018)
The past rings out in If Beale Street Could Talk, Barry Jenkins’ conjuration of the impressions that the lives lived have made on a place. We’re told the story through the senses of the places, what does Minetta Street remember of our young lovers, the attic apartment on Bank Street or the glass that separates them in visits throughout the film? What do we hold within us while we wait for life to begin again? A life put on hold through a charade of justice. There is a scene within the film that begins to touch at these deep and dark themes that for most of the film linger at the edges. For much of the film we’re locked on the outside of that glass, with Tish, waiting for Fonny to come home, but for one scene, as Fonny shares beers and cigarettes with an old friend, we’re given a window into an existence of fear and what those frightening realizations behind bars do the human being locked inside. After this point, the film retreats, back to the waters we started in, and lingers there for the remainder of its runtime. It’s a film about waiting and hoping and remembering, and a resolution that can never arrive. Throughout the film’s runtime, Jenkins’ most effective scenes arise from his longest trysts with the young couple, or the moments spent with family, often we long for the film to focus itself on the points that resonate, forget the rest, but we become unfocused. Many plot threads arise, are abandoned and never returned to. Many times we feel we may gain insight deeper into our characters and their private world, but it never happens, we remain on the other side of that glass, out there in the audience, removed. Many scenes soar and moments, some incredibly brief, call out to us. Much of what works in Beale Street seems to be in search of a film, a context that might unite the disparate threads into a unified narrative, but like all things in the film, they are just outside of reach.