If Beale Street Could Talk ★★★½

Give Barry Jenkins ample credit for not resting on his laurels with his follow-up to Moonlight; this James Baldwin adaptation is risky, strange and aesthetically jaw-dropping, with a sumptuous color scheme, haunting Demme-like close-ups and wildly unpredictable camerawork. However, the text suffers a bit in the transition to screen, especially in an early dialogue-heavy scene that goes on too long and feels too theatrical, and a finale that doesn't seem to functionally justify or earn its own sense of resignation -- but these are only problems against the restless, emotionally rich cinematic grace of the rest of the picture, wherein Jenkins never seems to go for the easy choice or obvious technique to tell the story. For the entire midsection it truly feels as if you are living inside the world Baldwin depicted and engaging directly with his characters, which is a credit to the director and the entire cast, particularly KiKi Layne and Stephan James in the lead roles, their chemistry and history unmistakable.

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