Review: Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

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In American hands, the Godzilla franchise has gone through as much devastation as any of the metropolitan cities, that the iconic monster has laid waste to. Roland Emmerich’s attempt was an awkwardly stitched patchwork of better movies. Gareth Edward split the difference with a respectful remake; filtering the bleakness of the 1954 Japanese original, through a flickering documentary aesthetic. The result was an international Spielberg esque picture, favouring harrowing monster encounters over exciting action sequences. The 2019 follow-up is a majestic, bombastic symphony of Kaiju thrills that lives up to its royal subtitle.

In the wake of the San Francisco Godzilla/Muto confrontation, Monarch (the central aspect that connects Legendary’s MonsterVerse together.) continues its search and observation mission of vast creatures, that were once believed to have dominated the planet. They do this amid growing pressure from the American government, who want the company to reveal the exact number of known creatures, so they can be destroyed.

In response, Monarch’s notable Paleobiologist, Dr Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) comes up with a device called the “ORCA.” It’s capable of communicating with the monsters via sonic frequency rays. When Dr Russel and her daughter, Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) are kidnapped by an eco-terrorist group, Monarch enlists the help of Emma’s ex-husband- Mark (Kyle Chandler). In a race against time, the organisation have to track them down before terrorist leader, Alan Jonah (Charles Dance) uses the invention to unleash the much-feared Monster Zero (King Ghidorah).

Like the best movies in the Kaiju sub-genre, King of the Monsters effortlessly blends its human story with its monster mayhem. Despite the sheer amount of destruction and carnage, the movie never feels numbing or devoid of humanity. In fact, the film’s central theme of whether or not humans can co-exist with these monsters (dubbed titans throughout the movie.) becomes a grand stage for how Emma and Mark are dealing with the loss of their son. Emma chooses to soothe her pain by building a device that enables humanity and one of its oldest creations to speak to one another. Whereas Mark wants to completely eliminate his pain by getting rid of Godzilla and his fellow titans.

Kyle Chandler and Vera Farmiga’s performances are authentic and resonating. They play their parts as though they’re in an independent film that happens to feature giant monsters. Aside from one sardonic line delivery, Charles Dance is a surprisingly muted presence. Likewise, Millie Bobby Brown only registers in one moment in the tail end of the film but proves to be otherwise serviceable.

In contrast to cursory glimpses of the creatures in Godzilla (2014), director Michael Dougherty chooses to fully show the legendary cinematic creations in their full glory. With persistent use of low angle and static master shots, the film is directed with awe and wonder of its beastly subjects. At times, it feels as though the filmmakers have stumbled upon an imaginative child’s Kaiju play session, and decided to give it a hefty budget. The film’s most astounding visual moments are King Ghidorah and Mothra entrances. They look like Hokusai and Turner paintings in motion with their detail and dynamic weather.

The film is not without its problems. The secondary characters range from sketchily developed to broadly drawn comic puppets. As one vocal audience member remarked in the lobby after the screening, “I’m not sure the filmmakers know how nuclear weapons work.” I’m inclined to agree. Most problematic is the number of times that characters miraculously survive against a torrent of beastly rage. It’s the stuff of drinking games on a Saturday night. Despite all this, Godzilla: King of the Monsters excels in being a near pitch-perfect monster movie with weight. The fact that it owes more to Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla then Ishirō Honda’s original film is not a bad thing at all.

 

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Review: Aladdin (2019)

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A good case can be made that Disney’s Aladdin was the first postmodern animated film. It was fully aware of its universal love story of a poor street urchin attempting to win the affections of a fair princess but decided to dress it up with playful irreverence. It was like a manic magician had taken over the film, became bored with its earnestness and had decided to fill it with a series of amusing, fourth-wall-breaking tangents.

This quality was embodied in the character of the Genie, who filtered the entire story through the prism of a Robin Williams stand up routine; complete with impressions, erratic mood swings and sobering declarations. While some later animated features would keep this postmodern edge, often at the expense of their heart: Aladdin commendably retains a rousing sense of adventure and romance- enlivened by captivating imagery and Alan Menken’s beautifully touching score. The film was pure wish fulfilment with a raised eyebrow.

By comparison, Guy Ritchie’s live-action remake proves to be something of a mixed blessing. While it delivers on the qualities that made the original film so enchanting, it can’t help but feel aesthetically shackled by the live-action medium and clumsy directorial choices.

Much like the 1992 animated film, the live-action remake has a young male street urchin called Aladdin (Mena Massoud) attempting to win the heart of Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott). By royal decree, she can only marry a prince and must put up with a slew of royal suitors. When the Grand Vizier of Agrabah, Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) offers Aladdin a chance to do this by retrieving an ancient lamp from a magical cave, the boisterous youth leaps in headfirst. Through duplicitous actions by Jafar, Aladdin is presumed dead but has the lamp in his possession. Once he rubs it, a blue Genie (Will Smith) awakens with the promise of three wishes.

Although sharing an identical plot as the original movie, there are some interesting diamonds within the new film’s rough screenplay. There’s a persistent attempt to emphasise the role of politics in the narrative. Agrabah is no longer an isolated kingdom and is instead part of a larger world with political allies and enemies. While the attempt to inject the story with political intrigue is alluring, it never ceases to feel hollow as the other kingdoms and their points of view (in the narrative) are abstract at best.

Despite this, it does result in some fascinating reinvention for some of the characters. Jasmine now aspires for leadership. Her frustration with being wrapped in perpetual palace protection comes from thinking that she can’t understand her people if she’s not allowed to walk among them. As Jasmine, Naomi Scott’s performance is impressive in showing the frustration of her societal role and the inherent good qualities she has a potential Sultan. Both aspects are illustrated in a barnstorming third act speech.

Rather than being a delicious post-Tim Curry invention, Jafar is now a political climber in the vein of Petyr Baelish from Game of Thrones. He also exists as a dark mirror to Aladdin. Emerging from nothing on the streets of Agrabah, Jafar seeks power to be the most important person in the room, as opposed to seeking fame and fortune to escape an impoverished existence. Kenzari occasionally retains some of the dry wit that made the character so indelible, while also portraying righteous indignation.

As the title character, Mena Massoud brings a relatable sense of inner doubt, most evident in his scenes as Prince Ali, where he portrays a palpable sense of alienation. He also wonderfully conveys this quality in his singing, particularly in the reprise of One Jump Ahead where he sings the first few lines with a sense of hesitancy. Despite being awkward in delivering period-authentic dialogue in his first scene, Will Smith is an often-enjoyable motor-mouthed presence as the Genie, particularly in reacting to Aladdin’s cringe-worthy attempts to impress the Sultan (Navid Negahban) and Jasmine.

The live-action remake often excels in the moments where it’s a stumbling comedy of errors, often balancing the awkward humour from wrong utterances and the pure jubilation from romantic encounters. In particular, Princess Jasmine’s handmaiden- Dalia (Nasim Pedrad) gets a lot of comedic mileage in her courtship with Smith’s Genie. At the same time, the film is effortlessly sweeping in its central romance, courtesy of the chemistry of its two leads, who lend the proceedings with a sweet and sincere casualness.

Despite being swept up in its romance, the same could not be said in the film’s direction. Guy Ritchie’s directorial tendencies tend to clash with the material and make some of the musical sequences quite awkward. In particular, the staging of One Jump Ahead makes for some jarring watching. Ritchie attempts to make it like a sequence from Sherlock Holmes where Aladdin is slowing down the sequence to become an omniscient narrator of his surroundings to demonstrate how he can get past the guards. But this directorial flourish clashes with the fast nature of the song that’s meant to illustrate Aladdin’s desperate and dangerous existence.

To compound matters, the song is broken up severely for dialogue sequences that could have been moved elsewhere. The original musical number was a breathlessly delivered 1950s show tune that existed within the confines of a Jackie Chan esque action sequence. In Ritchie’s hands, it’s a sloppy and jerky mess.

In other instances, Ritchie’s slow-motion use, which did wonders for his Sherlock Holmes’ action sequences tend to come across as mockable indulgence. Even the opening tracking shot that travels the lengths of the Agrabah marketplace to the Cave of Wonders is marred by an attempt to wedge an early plot point where it does not belong.

The only sequence that benefits from his directorial hand are the film’s new musical number- Speechless. Ritchie freezes the sequence and allows Jasmine to powerfully vent to every person who has spoken down to her and how she’s no longer going to accept it.

Ultimately, the live-action remake of Aladdin is a strange dance that balances heartfelt romanticism with limiting direction. While it does expand the depth of the characters, it does not rise to the occasion of the alluded large scope in its screenplay and ends up feeling lesser for it.

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Review: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

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The Marvel Cinematic Universe has glistened as much as any of the Infinity Stones in its eleven-year existence on the blockbuster scene. However, its Achilles heel comes from replication of its source material in being an ever-expanding bubble, that with each passing year, steamrolls into inaccessibility with a seemingly never-ending narrative. Despite not being as thematically rich as some of the previous instalments, Avengers: Endgame does what few of its genre brethren have dared or even hope to accomplish, which is providing a satisfying sense of finality to its overarching story.

Picking up immediately after the events of Avengers: Infinity War, Endgame is about how our scattered heroes deal with the aftermath of half the universe being wiped out. When a previously thought dead Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) returns to present day, via the Quantum Realm, the remaining Avengers hatch a plan to collect the six Infinity Stones (elemental gems that grant its wearer various abilities, such as turning back time and manipulating the environment) from the past and place them within a newly constructed Infinity gauntlet, once they do this, everyone who had previously crumbled into dust will come back.

As much as Endgame has been hyped as a culmination to a decade long storyline, it also represents an ending to the Russo Brothers’ tenure as Marvel directors. Starting with Captain America: The Winter Soldier: the directing duo introduced a real-world political thriller ascetic, amidst the backdrop of a serious and earnest hero whose optimism shone with the brightness of a full moon.

As their films have worn on, they’ve become much more fantastical space-faring adventures, balancing genuine dramatic pathos with comic book inspired action sequences. In Endgame, there is an attempt to bridge the gap between the intimate stakes that graced Winter Soldier and Civil War with the universe-spanning consequences of Infinity War.

These two facets come together in the first quarter of Endgame that feels like a riff on Watchmen. The who watches the Watchmen theme is illustrated through a ghostly existence for many of the heroes, whose lives have become empty, due to the nature of the changing world that they could not prevent. At the same time, the deliberately paced section engages as a counterexample to Thanos’ belief that wiping out half of life would mean that the remaining people would prosper, due to easier access to resources. Instead, the depiction of a post-snap world shows people leading timid lives. Standard choices that were once taken for granted now become life-affirming moments, akin to steps people take when processing and attempting to get over the death of a loved one.

In this stretch of the film, Scarlett Johansson particularly impresses in a performance that subverts how we usually see Natasha Romanoff. Johansson has always played Natasha like a poker player whose constantly focused on adopting a neutral emotional state for pure survival. In Endgame, Johansson embodies the broken spirit of the team, with a subtle emotional performance, that still hints at the former spy, working to portray a sense of light relief in the face of utter hopelessness. Equally, as captivating is Mark Ruffalo, who injects Bruce Banner’s new form with the comedic import of the jolly green giant and an encouraging football coach.

Despite containing many jokes that riff on the nature of time travel, Endgame does morph into Back to the Future Part II for much of its running time. The present-day Avengers have to shadow their past selves in moments from previous Marvel movies. The funniest of which is a silent point of view of Peter Quill’s dancing entrance in Guardians of the Galaxy that culminates in an amusing physical comedy gag that would make the Three Stooges proud.

At worst, these sequences feel like the film is indulging in an elongated victory lap. Most of the moments of the past are rubber-stamped in neon pink with- remember this great moment, although some of the scenes have a sly sense of irony. A mundane scene that takes places in the aftermath of the first Avengers film frames an elevator scene with Captain America and Shield bosses as ascetically similar to a tense scene in The Winter Soldier. The sequence is amusing in its diffusion of this set up ascetic tension with a fast-talking Steve Rogers, who has to retrieve a briefcase with one of the MacGuffins.

Ascetically, the film has some beautiful moments, particularly one extended scene with Ronin (Jeremy Renner) that feels like it’s been lifted from a Japanese cop drama with its mixture of moody atmosphere and natural light of Toyko’s nightlife. But Endgame’s direction is at its best with small camera movements that speak volumes. One such scene comes at the end which pans from a message written on a box to every person amongst a large gathering of people. The shot feels like it belongs in a Wes Anderson film. It speaks to a community that was touched and united by one soul. But, in a metatextual sense, it acknowledges the legacy of said character who is the architect for the tone, comedic sensibility, and brand of heroism that defines the entire Marvel cinematic universe.

And the closing moments with its nostalgically warm and radiating natural light imbues a simple gesture with an emotional pathos that has come to define the entire project. At its best, superhero fiction makes our striving for normalcy all the more resonating because it’s filtered through the prism of extraordinary beings, whose responsibility and personal hangups make it hard for them to achieve a semblance of ordinariness. The fact that Avengers: Endgame understands this idea, as well as any movie within the genre, is why it soars.

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Brief Consideration: Exodus Movies (1956-2014)

The Ten Commandments (1956)

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Aside from being an epic and loving adaptation of The Exodus story, Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments is also an examination of the pride and follies of man. Yul Brynner’s performance as Rameses carries this theme as a constant throughout the picture. His arrogance and pride seep through every pore even at the expense of compassion, which comes far too late.

Even some of the film’s large scale sequences speak to this theme in a meaningful way. The last twenty minutes depict sheer fervour and debauchery in the face of a new God that the recently freed Hebrews have created. These scenes are intercut with God casting into stone the ten commandments. These moments are a fascinating study of the newly found pride that the recently freed Hebrews have acquired and the dire consequences that ensue.

However, one of the most interesting aspects of the film is the other sources it draws inspiration from, aside from the prominent Biblical texts. In the third act, Nefretiri (Anne Baxter) becomes a Lady Macbeth figure as she plies her husband’s ears full of poisonous words, which lead him on a destructive path.

Those brief scenes speak to the film’s examination of pride better than any other, as they suggest that pride is a natural state that must be kept at a constant in the service of meaningful goals. Nearly every character in the picture is after something more substantial than themselves whether its love, immortality or freedom. The film is fascinating in depicting the attempt of these goals by mere mortals.

 

The Prince of Egypt (1998)

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The Prince of Egypt remains the finest animated feature of the 1990s, a decade where the genre reached unprecedented artistic and critical heights. More amazingly it is the best adaptation of the Exodus story. This is due to its sharp focus on the relationship between Moses and Ramesses, which is the film’s central focus. Aside from that, the film contains many ambitious sequences that still engage and work. There’s a dream sequence that takes place within a space of an Egyptian wall painting. It’s an excellent illustration of Moses’s emotional turmoil while harkening back to a past animation style (stop motion) and finally, something of a piece with the period that the film is set in.

 

Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014)

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Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings is an interesting if at times frustrating reinterpretation of the Moses story. For all the spark of inspiration such as God appearing as a child, Moses’s pragmatic and reluctant attitude towards his plight, and a compelling retooling of one Biblical set-piece; there remain huge problems. These include choppy editing that does not allow one to get absorbed in the story. Gaps in the screenplay that should have been filled. And finally, some of the performances feel like the actors are being interviewed and posing for a GQ cover as opposed to a Biblical Epic.

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Review: Us (2019)

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In 2017, Jordan Peele set the film world ablaze with his social thriller, Get Out. With a premise that insidiously plucked on the familiar notes of Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner: the film impressed with its measured direction and blistering commentary, that presented African American racism with a frightening and ironic new dimension.

By comparison, Peele’s second feature, Us, is a sly, full-blooded horror movie that engages as a tight wire act between the high and low sensibilities of the genre. It demonstrates that Peele has perfected the alchemy of the a and b-grade horror picture, and is able to seamlessly harmonise them with firm confidence.

While on holiday with her parents at a Santa Cruz amusement park, a young girl named  Adelaide (Madison Curry) drifts into a funhouse. Within the hall of mirrors, she encounters an exact identical version of herself. Many years later, an adult Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) returns to the area with husband- Gabe (Winston Duke), elder daughter- Zora (Shahadi Wright Joesph) and youngest son- Jason (Evan Alex). As a series of seemingly innocuous coincidences start to mount up, Adelaide must come to terms with her past trauma, when an identical family appear on the front entrance of her summer home.

The experience of watching Us is akin to witnessing a Russian nesting doll set decrease before your very eyes. The first quarter engages as a tense Hitchcockian thriller, in which tiny surreal details are drip fed in a calculated manner to unnerve the audience. The film then transforms into a home invasion thriller that has echoes of The Hills Have Eyes in its sheer primordial tension of seeing the family surviving against their respective doppelgängers. From there, the picture morphs into a dizzyingly nasty black comedy, that expands its tone and concept into something wholly surprising and wild.

Peele matches the ambitious genre and narrative shifts with some intriguing and memorable imagery. This mostly comes in the form of some haunting and often quite vivid close-ups that engulf the frame. They subvert the usual genre convention of hiding the monsters and providing cursory glimpses of them for maximum shock factor. Instead, Peele employs the close-ups to juxtapose the doppelgängers with their respective family pairings to illustrate how little separates them.

But Peele’s most impressive direction comes in the final act. One prolonged chase sequence cross-cuts Adelaide’s memories of being a dancer with her desperate attempts to kill her doppelgänger (Red), whose elegant movements evoke her counterpart’s memories in frighteningly intense ways. The sequence is elevated by Micheal Ables’ stirring score. It manages to harmonise two contrasting genres of horror music. In his elegant and sudden use of strings, Ables evokes the sharpness of Bernard Herrmann’s Psycho theme with the contemporary droning grunge music that defined much of Tyler Bate’s Halloween scores.

While there is a distinct pleasure in seeing Peele effortlessly juggle disparate tones and ascetic sensibilities, the real power of Us comes from its subtext about its central antagonists (The Tethered).

Peele presents an American fable in which The Tethered is a vivid representation of Jung’s shadow archetype. Their disenchantment is fueled by a fervent religiosity that has been lost in contemporary American culture. There is a persistent reference to a Biblical verse (Jeremiah 11:11) by a silent harbinger. It speaks of an evil that is going to be unleashed and will be inescapable. When people try to cry out for God for this plague, he will not listen, suggesting a perception of divine righteousness and protection on the part of The Tethered.

Conceptually, The Tethered range in influence from the cannibal savages in The Hills Have Eyes to the dreary-eyed Body Snatchers that have permeated the history of genre movies. But Peele fundamentally makes them a fairy tale creation. When a young Adelaide gets lost in the hall of mirrors, she is surrounded by a pop art set of an ancient looking forest. In addressing her metropolitan double, Red frames her tragic story as a fairy tale, complete with the proverbial opening line- “Once Upon a Time.”

Lupita Nyong’o particularly impresses in a dual role. As Adelaide, Nyong’o conveys a palpable sense of emotional repression, with her various pauses and distant line readings. These early moments in the film make her later emotional outbursts all the more powerful and striking. Whereas the Keyan-Mexican actress injects Red with a precise and spindly physicality that echos some of Robert Englund’s great work as Freddy Kruger.

With images that will remain etched in your mind and a premise that keeps unravelling into something rich and interesting: Us is a serious call to arms film for cementing Jordan Peele’s talent as a horror auteur of the highest degree.

 

 

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Review: Captain Marvel (2019)

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From a purple-coloured mad titan to a perpetually scowly Jeff Bridges in a giant robot suit: Marvel has had plenty of challenges that would make any superhero worth their salt, quake in their boots. However, its toughest challenge to date does not come from a supervillain causing mayhem but instead creating a female-led superhero film that also serves as a prequel to its entire cinematic canon. Despite being marred by some awkward prequel manoeuvring and action sequences that are more tiring then exhilarating: Captain Marvel is an earnest, quietly subversive and often amusing movie.

Set in the 1990s and taking place over a decade before Iron Man, Captain Marvel is about Vers (Brie Larson), who is a member of an elite military organisation called Starforce. They are tasked with wiping out the Skrulls, (intergalactic creatures who can morph into any person or object). After escaping from the clutches of their leader- Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) on an ambushed undercover extraction mission, Vers crash lands on Earth. Once there, she must race against time to prevent a Skrull invasion and find out why the planet holds the key to her past. Along the way, she teams up with a humble pencil pushing Shield employee- Nick Fury (an astoundingly digitally de-aged Samuel L. Jackson).

Despite being a ’90s period piece that has the movies from the decade ingrained within its DNA, Captain Marvel surprisingly owes an enormous debt to Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop. Like Verhoeven’s human turned robotic protagonist- Alex Murphy, Vers’ journey to untangle the mystery of her past and identity reflects an internal struggle to find her humanity. While Robocop relegated this element to the periphery, Captain Marvel leads with this existential yearning. The result is an interesting origin story for the title character and the wholesome portrayal of superheroes that have graced the genre’s past.

Brie Larson commendably walks a fine line between the determined, difficult nature of Vers’ Kree character and the heroic qualities of her costumed persona. It’s a performance that’s unique for its moody edginess as much as it is for its earnestness and warmth. Ben Mendelsohn impresses in a role that finally allows his of kilter and casual persona to shine in a way that subverts our initial impression of Talos’ motivation and purpose.

Aside from a plethora of ’90s callbacks, (a particular favourite is Carol Danvers and co impatiently waiting for a video file to download via dial-up internet) Samuel L Jackson serves as the primary comedic foil. His performance cleverly uses Fury’s eventual no-nonsense attitude as a jumping off point for much of the younger incarnation’s charm and lightness.

Aesthetically, the film has a few moments in which the imagery startles the senses. Vers’ initial meeting with the Supreme Intelligence (in the guise of Annette Benning) draws the eye with its cosmic sights. There is one moment where many halos of bright white light are reflecting upon a grey surface as the exposition of the Skrulls is being conveyed with whizzing holograms of planets. The scene visually feels reminiscent of Superman’s first encounter with Jor-El in the Fortress of Solitude, in Superman the Movie (1978), particularly with its stark use of white and grey.

But Captain Marvel excels most in its memory scenes that paint the character’s origin story as a traumatic puzzle to be solved. In one scene, Talos probs her memories in an artful and impressionist manner to get at some truth of something from her past. In this and many ways, the film is made in the same spirit as many of those ’90s puzzle thriller movies that would slowly unravel and subvert the premise that it sets up. At its core, it’s a movie that seems less concerned with its central hero being conveyed in flashy terms, but rather in her humanity being front and centre. It has introspection, the time to show its characters realising hard truths and a wonderfully dogged spirit.

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Review: If Beale Street Could Talk (2019)

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Director Barry Jenkins creates social fables that resonate and speak to a particular time and place with vivid authenticity. His breakout feature, Moonlight, depicted coming of age in 1980s Miami with such sincerity that one could feel the emotions pouring out of the screen. Despite being fueled by a generous gift of lingering on all of its characters: Moonlight never reconciles its sobering social implications with its central character’s plight. An implied horrific cycle involving Chiron’s primary father figure- Juan (Mahershala Ali) being responsible for the drug addiction of the young boy’s mother- Paula (Naomie Harris), which results in Chiron’s unstable upbringing is seemingly dropped and never explored.

This problematic aspect is entirely solved in If Beale Street Could Talk. The film is a tragically poetic portrait of youthful innocence being slowly eroded, due to the crushing and sobering realities of society’s civil institutions. Adapted from James Baldwin’s critically acclaimed 1974 novel of the same name, the film is about a young African-American woman- Clementine “Tish” Rivers (Kiki Layne), who attempts to free her boyfriend, Alonzo “Fonny” Hunt (Stephen James) from prison, before she gives birth to their child. Fonny has been imprisoned because of an accusation of rape, provided by a presumed strong testimony by a disgruntled cop- Officer Bell (Ed Skrein) and the victim- Victoria Rogers (Emily Rios) who identifies the young man out of a police lineup.

If Moonlight was about the small moments that shaped a man’s life from childhood to adulthood, then If Beale Street Could Talk is about the struggles of the mundane. Jenkins’ camera is almost wielded like a documentarian as it showcases many characters in real-time going about their lives with a considerable amount of normality. One montage that has Tish describe and subsequently feels the effects of her baby’s persistent kicking, impresses in showcasing how this new change greatly impacts the standard elements of her daily life.

Jenkins contrasts these sequences with scenes that have Tish reflecting on how her relationship with Fonny has changed over the years. These scenes are engulfed in a pure blissful nostalgic haze- particularly one moment that has Tish and Fonny walking through a seemingly empty street in the rain. With minimal use of yellow and red within the confines of a widescreen shot, the moment has the romanticism of a vintage Hollywood musical, combined with a foreboding sense that the couple’s time together is short lived as its torn asunder by the inciting incident.

As Tish, Kiki Layne impresses in portraying a believable sense of innocence that grows into an acceptance of the sobering maturity that comes from her changing situation. In an Oscar-winning supporting turn, Regina King brings warmth and world-weariness, as Tish’s persistently supportive and loving mother. Stephen James strikes the biggest chord as Fonny. He balances a smooth and generous demeanour in the dreamlike appearances that permeate Tish’s memories with heartbreaking desperation, as a result of his incarceration.

If Beale Street Could Talk is about how injustice haunts every day living. It can cause us to become cynical, question long presumed truths and even want to emotionally outburst against the entire world. Barry Jenkins commendably allows the audience to see the long term effects of Fonny’s imprisonment on the characters. They scream, cry, and even look at themselves in the mirror with existential dread. Most movies would excise these incidental moments in the margins, but they fundamentally make If Beale Steet Could Talk feel real and raw.

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