There’s a certain difficulty, to crafting a story that is unique but also feels universal, to craft characters that feel like real people but ones that also feel like an archetype. ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ is one such story. The film takes place in New York City in the 1960s, but it feels like it could have taken place in any city, at any point in the 20th century.
Of course, that being said, this is a story about one couple who are struggling to make ends meet. Fonny (Stephan James) and Tish (KiKi Layne) rent an apartment together after Tish becomes pregnant. Shortly afterwards, Fonny is arrested for rape, despite it being clear he couldn’t have been the culprit. The arresting officer simply had it out for him, so he found a way.
What makes the film truly remarkable (aside Barry Jenkins’ light directorial touch) is that despite how clearly dire the couple’s (and their family’s) circumstances are, the film is largely upbeat. They always keep a positive outlook toward the future, and simply do what they have to do in order to get by, even though they seem to have been dealt a bad hand in life. And it’s truly a deft film that can be life-affirming and yet sad at the same time.+3