Content warning: This article discusses sexual assault.
Barry Jenkins' highly-anticipated follow-up toMoonlightdidn't see as much Oscars hype as its predecessor, butIf Beale Street Could Talkis a powerful film in its own right. Hints of the same poetic style and cinematography are clear throughout, but this effect doesn't take the edge off the grit and harshness of the film's message.
What sets this film apart is its poetry, which is effectively adapted from James Baldwin's novel, upon which the film is based. This poetry is apparent not just in the visualsand the story beats, but in the words the characters speak, especially Tish's narration. The film was also praised for its inclusivity in regards to the Me Too movement and intersectional feminism.
10 "Unbow Your Head, Sister."
If Beale Street Could Talkis a love story, but it's not just about romantic love. The support Tish feels from her family is a key component of the narrative, and it's what drives the plot forward. When Tish feels that she needs to defend herself and her choices to her family, they reassure her that she's never been wrong about Fonny.
Though Fonny's parents may disapprove of the baby, Tish's family only shows her love. When she hangs her head, Tish's sister reminds her to keep her chin up. The simple statement is powerful in its subtlety and quiet poetry. Tish raises her head and they make a toast to the newborn.
9 "Some Of The Things I've Seen, I'll Be Dreaming About It Until The Day I Die."
Fonny's longtime friend Daniel comes over for a chat one day, which proves to be a foreshadowing plot point. Fonny asks him how long he's been out of prison, and what he says moves Fonny. Because viewers don't actually get to see Fonny when he's in prison, this discussion provides the imagery for Fonny's offscreen experience.
The latter half ofDaniel'sspeech suggests that his ungrounded incarceration was only possible because of the power imbalance between the white cops in the city and people of color - especially those who don't have a lot of wealth or social influence. "... when you in there, they can do with you whatever they want." Though he doesn't mention specifics, it's clear that the terror and injustice of this trauma still haunt him.
8 "It Was In The Dark. You Saw Alonzo In The Light."
In an effort to exonerate Fonny,Sharon tracks down Victoria, the woman who accuses Fonny of assaulting her. Sharon isn't totally convinced that Victoria is telling the truth, and she doesn't understand why a stranger would falsely testify against her son-in-law.
The evidence around Fonny's involvement is flimsy at best, given his location at the time of Victoria's alleged assault. Trying to stay calm and reasonable, Sharon points out that Victoria couldn't have known if it really was Fonnybecause theonly time Victoria ever saw him was in the light of the police station, though the words "light" and "dark" could have more symbolic connotations here. "How can you be so sure?" Victoria asks, and Sharon replies, "I've known him all my life."
7 "Daughter, I Was A Woman Long Before You Was A Woman."
Sharon's meeting with Victoria is a major turning point in the film. It reveals just how deep racism runs, but it also opens up a conversation about what feminism is. Sharon claims that she can tell Victoria has "never been raped", though the woman is clearly troubled by something.
Sharon's way of proving her point is to tell Victoria that she's been a woman for longer than she has. "And I know you pay for the lies you tell," she continues. "You sent a man to jail, one you ain't ever seen before. Just twenty-two years old, young, and he wants to marry my daughter." But when she tries to get closer, Victoria starts yelling. Upon her return home, Sharon is surer than ever that Victoria is lying or concealing something.
6 "It's Your Grandchild. What Difference Does It Make How It Gets Here?"
Fonny's family is a lot less supportive than Tish's familywhen it comes to Tish's decision to keep the baby. They believe that the situation is disgraceful and sacrilegious, and they fear that the baby won't have a good upbringing. However, Tish is committed to raising her child with love and care, and her family is willing to help her.
Sharon reminds Fonny's family that it isn't the baby's fault that Fonny won't be around, or that Tish and Fonny didn't getthe chance to get married before he was imprisoned. She tells both families that what matters most is that the baby is part of their family and that they should show the child love.
5 "And We Got All The Time In The World."
Tish is hesitant to get into a romantic relationship with Fonny, who is her childhood friend. The dynamic is totally new to both of them, and it seems that she doesn't have any prior romantic experience. Fonny reassures her not to worry, that they have the rest of their lives to figure out this new kind of love.
He says this right before he's arrested and their lives change forever. Though Fonny couldn't have known what would happen,the moment of foreshadowing feels almost clairvoyant. It's also a testament to both of their characters, how calm and assured they are in their futures with one another - and this continues even when Fonny is taken away.
4 "I Hope That Nobody Has Ever Had To Look At Anyone They Love Through Glass."
Tish's narration is an ever-present component in the story, and it serves to add extra insight and retrospective emotion to the film. Hearing her tell the story in her own words helps viewers see the situation from her perspective - a real, human perspective.
"I hope that nobody has ever had to look at anyone they love through glass," she says,which is a simple but powerful sentiment. Not only does Tish reveal her own pain at being apart from Fonny, but she expresses her sympathy to anyone else who has ever experienced something similar. Even though she acts happy when she visits her husband in prison she quietly tells her audience, a neutral partythat she doesn't know, that she wouldn't wish this experience on anyone.
3 "... If You Trusted Love This Far, Don't Panic Now. Trust It All The Way."
Tish begins to doubt herself and the decisions she's made when things fall apart. She starts to think that love is to blame for all of her problems and that if she didn't love Fonny then none of this could have happened. But her mother reminds her that the opposite is true.
After all, love brought her and her best friend closer together and gave them a child. Sharon believes that love can heal them, which is why she advises Tish to trust love to untangle this knot of pain. By the end of the romance movie, it becomes clear that love is indeed the only thing that gets Tish through this phase in her life.
2 "... I Finally Understood That He Was The Most Beautiful Person I Had Seen In All My Life."
The film opens with a sequence that focuses on Tish and Fonny's evolving relationship. They start out as kids, almost close enough to be family. As they grow up, they begin to see each other in different ways but are too scared to openly approach the topic for a long time.
Tish realizes she loves Fonny at the simplest of moments, and she shares it with the audience very candidly. They're on a subway train, just looking at each other, when Tish says in voiceover: "... it was no surprise to mewhen I finallyunderstood that he wasthe most beautiful person I had ever seen in my life." Though she's known him since they were kids, only as an adult can she truly appreciate who he is at his core.
1 "But I Know About Suffering, And I Know That It Ends."
One of the most important takeaways from the film is that nothing is permanent. Tish's mom is a steady source of support, and she teaches her daughter many lessons throughout her journey. One of the things she says that sticks with Tish for a long time is that even though Tishfeels like she's on her own in this struggle, she can be sure that it will pass.
She reminds Tish that she isn't all alone: "You've got this child right here beneath your heart." However, she also tells Tish not to give up because they're all counting on her. She's the only one who can give birth to this baby, which will be another emotional tether for Fonny.
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- 5 "And We Got All The Time In The World."
- 6 "It's Your Grandchild. ...
- 7 "Daughter, I Was A Woman Long Before You Was A Woman." ...
- 8 "It Was In The Dark. ...
- 9 "Some Of The Things I've Seen, I'll Be Dreaming About It Until The Day I Die." ...
- 10 "Unbow Your Head, Sister." ...
What had fonny found that saved him from the death that was waiting to overtake the children of our age? ›
What had fonny found that saved him from the death that was waiting to overtake the children of our age?
What was the purpose of If Beale Street could talk?
Who are the main characters in If Beale Street could talk?
What happens to fonny in Beale Street?