If Beale St Could Talk

Barry Jenkins Directs Baldwin's Race Drama

BY: Claire Connors

Director Barry Jenkins, whose film Moonlight won the Oscar for Best Picture last year, is clearly not done winning accolades for his work. His newest project is based on the powerful novel If Beale Street Could Talk by writer James Baldwin and will most likely be a contender come this award season.

Set in Harlem in the early 70s, the story follows two young lovers, Tish, 19, and Fonny, 22, whose happy lives should be just starting: they’re engaged and expecting their first child. When Fonny is falsely accused of rape, a racist cop (Ed Skrein) makes sure he’s unjustly jailed with little hope of ever getting out. The glorious Regina King (American Crime) plays Tish’s mother, determined to help her daughter’s beloved get out of prison before her grandchild is born.

Tish is played with the perfect combination of tenderness, innocence, and fear by up-and-comer Kiki Layne (Chicago Med). And Canadian actor Stephan James is flawless as the innocent Fonny. James got his start on the hot TV drama, Degrassi: The Next Generation just two years before Drake graduated, and went on to play real-life heroes Olympic runner Jesse Owens in Race, and civil rights leader John Lewis in Selma.

Jenkins packs his gorgeously shot film with costars only an Oscar winner could possibly hope to cast: Broadway star and Fear the Walking Dead survivor, Coleman Domingo, is Tish’s sweet, understanding father; Teyonah Parris (Dear White People) is her supportive sister; Diego Luna (Y Tu Mamá También) and Brian Tyree Henry (Atlanta) are Fonny’s best friends: and Finn Wittrock (American Horror Story) plays Fonny’s helpless lawyer.

The heart-wrenching film couldn’t be more timely considering the racial tensions in our society today.

If Beale Street Could Talk opens November 30.