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MOVIES: (LFF 2018) If Beale Street Could Talk - Review

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If Beale Street Could Talk emerges as my personal favourite film of the entire London Film Festival. It's an excellent movie that more than matches Barry Jenkins' superb Moonlight and stands on a similiar level to the likes of the masterpieces that are Roma and Suspiria as among the best films of the year. It's a heartbreaking slow burner of a film that makes an excellent use of the heavy Wong Kar-Wai influences that perpetuated Moonlight, giving it a vibrant, unique tone that helps it stand out from the crowd.

Based off the titular novel, If Beale Street Could Talk left me absolutely stunned. Jenkins shows his talent once again creating a powerful tour-de-force of a film that examines all the characters involved remarkably well, making the most out of a terrific cast. The film follows a man who is wrongfully incarcerate, sending his girlfriend on a driven quest to prove his innocence. But it is far more than just a typical 'law' movie if you will, but then that is to be expected as it is Barry Jenkins we're talking about. He weaves depth into his characters that make them instantly memorable, with KiKi Layne and Stephan James proving that they should be in everything. Rarely has a conversation without any words communicated so much.

The supporting cast is excellent too. Colman Domingo is absolutely incredible, and both Diego Luna and Pedro Pascal also excel in there's. Jenkins went all out with recruiting the cast for this film and it's easy to see that it reaps its rewards. Regina King should be a shoe-in for a best supporting actress nomination too, as the complex performance in her role makes it just as memorable as Layne and James'. The chemistry across the board is perfect regardless of the nature of the relationship, be it mother and daughter, girlfriend and boyfriend or sister and sister. Jenkins is able to allow people with even the smallest of roles to feel more complex and human than characters who have appeared in multiple franchises. Another standout is Brian Tyree Henry in his brief role, and it's hard not to sympathise with anyone here.

The film also has one of the most hateable characters on the side of the law since The Green Mile's Percy and Jenkins really explores the effect that wrongful incarceration has on not just the person involved but also the family that he leaves behind. There are plenty of conflicts between Hunt's (James) and Rivers's (Layne) family which make for excellent viewing, and the set-piece where they are all gathered to find out about Tish Rivers' pregnancy is a wonderful character-centric piece.

There are multiple stunning shots in If Beale Street Could Talk. My favourite is quite possibly the scene where they are walking down a street celebrating, and it was something that stuck with me throughout the entire film. Even the most run-down, cheap apartment looks beautiful under Jenkins' gaze, and it's hard not to imagine a better filmmaker currently working than the director when he's at the top of his game. It'll be really interesting to see whether or not we get a repeat of the Chazelle/Jenkins competition that dominated the 2017 Oscars, and whether or not First Man or If Beale Street Could Talk stand a chance at taking home the big prize once again.

Quiet, subtle and slow-moving, If Beale Street Could Talk shows a legendary director at the top of his game. It shows that Jenkins can overcome the tricky sophomore film that so many directors stumble at, and continues to establish him as a major talent.

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