starring KiKi Layne, Stephan James, Colman Domingo, Regina King
screenplay by Barry Jenkins, based on the book by James Baldwin
directed by Barry Jenkins
by Walter Chaw Barry Jenkins's If Beale Street Could Talk evokes Wallace Stevens's "The Snowman" and its idea of nothing beholding the nothing that is there and the nothing that isn't. It is all of the delirious, sublime rapture of falling in love; and it is all of the terrible fear of losing love to a capricious world that's rooting against you and rooting hard. The lips that would kiss are the same that form prayers to broken stones. If Beale Street Could Talk is about race and it's about sex--gender, somewhat, but more about how sex is politicized, used as a verb and an adjective, and there in the touch a sculptor gives his creation or lips give a cigarette. It's in the words that lovers old and new use together and it's in the sultry twilight where you can see the shape of your possible futures outlined as shadows against the exhaustion of another day. Baldwin's literature is seduction. His characters urge one another to listen and to use care when speaking. Words have meaning in Baldwin's world because in their interaction between the speaker and the listener, that's sex, too. He offers that there's harmony, even beauty, in the world, then shows the world in its bitterness and ugliness and challenges you to see it for yourself. I usually can't. Barry Jenkins, judging by the evidence of his films, can. It makes this adaptation by Jenkins of Baldwin's novel of the same name something a little like magic--you know, a little like sex.