Elle Driver’s review published on Letterboxd:
It wasn't but a few weeks ago that I was looking at movies in theaters to watch for Thanksgiving. I was honestly a bit disappointed at the options available. I looked once again today at the movies playing in theaters and I still noticed, that there isn't much playing in theaters that I suppose is offering something different. I guess what I mean is, there isn't a diverse menu of films to choose from. It's disheartening really because it seemed like last year we were going in a great direction for cinema. 2017 was quite frankly my favorite year this decade for movies. It seemed like all the protests and outrage at the lack of new and innovative stories had finally paid off. We got to see an examination of female youth and middle class families in Lady Bird, the colorful world Sean Baker built through the eyes of children living in poverty in The Florida Project, and the annihilating cyber punk journey of Blade Runner 2049 - it was a really interesting year for cinema. I've thoroughly enjoyed the films of 2018, but still there's apart of me that craves something new, something bold, something different. Diversity isn't just about the color of the casts skin or the gender & sexuality of characters, it's also about story. I love entering worlds I had never imagined witnessing before my eyes. There's very few films you can point out in theaters at this moment that bring something you've probably never seen before or something bold. And then comes along Barry Jenkins with If Beale Street Could Talk.
If Beale Street Could Talk is unlike any movie I think I've seen in recent years. Barry Jenkins is once again a groundbreaking force of nature behind the camera. Every shot in this film is perfectly composed with such elegance and majesty. Frame for frame Barry Jenkins is precise and completely calculated. The only way I could describe Jenkins' appeal to visuals is sensory. If Beale Street Could Talk is in many ways a sensory experience. There's an abundance of warm colors, flesh tones, earth tones. Murky blacks, muddy browns, earthy greens, ruby reds, mustard yellows - every color pops with saturation. If Beale Street Could Talk is visually breathtaking. The costumes are seriously ravishing as well. If Beale Street Could Talk not only stuns visually, it's genuinely beautiful to listen to. This film is scored to the utmost perfection and adds to this sensory style of the film. Barry Jenkins seamlessly directs this film with care and heart allowing his vision to ooze with warmth and intimacy.
The cast is simply profound. These performances all across the board are just magnificent. Each of these actors pours their heart and soul into these characters and it shines through. From Fonny to Levy, every person in If Beale Street Could Talk feels real. You really get this feeling that these are people living out their daily lives, not actors putting on performances. Kiki Layne, Regina King, and Stephan James are all thunderous onscreen. Every cast member adds their own personality to each character, but these three are ridiculously powerful. One of my favorite things about If Beale Street Could Talk is the way that it portrays blackness. In reality blackness is not desirable. No matter what anyone says there's not really a debate to be had on the subject. Slavery and segregation may be over on legal terms, but black people are still in ways prisoners to whiteness (if you don't believe it look up internalized racism). In most of western media whiteness is portrayed as superior or the societal norm. So much so that many people would rather be found dead than ever love a black person. Because black people have nappy hair, big noses, big lips, dark eyes, and dark skin; they don't exactly fit eurocentric beauty standards. Some argue that this is in no way racist and just a matter of "preference", but that's an argument for another day. Nonetheless If Beale Street Could Talk confronts those who resent blackness and deny blacks of love, and treats black love as completely normal and beautiful. It occurred to me while seeing a film do this that out of this entire year in theaters I could count the amount of movies I've seen with blacks that properly portray blackness on one hand. That's just disheartening honestly. Films like this just aren't frequent and it is films like these that are breaking the traditional mold of Hollywood.
Barry Jenkins is a trailblazer. In a time where most movies are directed by white men with all white casts, Barry Jenkins as he puts it himself "I make movies for black people." It was just 2 years ago that he wowed me with Moonlight, which is in my honest belief one of the greatest pieces of cinema and one of the most important films to ever release. He returns with If Beale Street Could Talk and he once again proves that he is going to continue pushing the envelope. Because although diversity is great, at the end of the day what matters is whether the film is good or not. If Beale Street Could Talk isn't just good or even great it's beyond those adjectives. Beale Street is an evocative and soulful melodrama that left me completely speechless at just how beautifully heartbreaking it is.