News

If Beale Street Could Talk First Reviews: A Sublime, Poetic Follow-Up to Moonlight

So far, Barry Jenkins has earned near universal praise from critics in Toronto for his adaptation of the James Baldwin novel.

by | September 10, 2018 | Comments

Barry Jenkins may not have another Best Picture on his hands with If Beale Street Could Talk, but initial reviews out of the Toronto International Film Festival are mostly just as smitten with the Moonlight follow-up. Highlighting the film’s empathy, cinematography and music, the near-unanimous praise also proclaims it a worthy adaptation of James Baldwin’s classic novel and possibly a tribute to one of Hong Kong’s greatest filmmakers.

Check out what the first round of critics are saying:


Is it a worthy follow-up to Moonlight?

Moonlight was no fluke… If the film isn’t the year’s best, it will come mighty close.
Radheyan Simonpillai, Daily Hive

[Jenkins brings] the same deft directorial solutions and emotional subtlety to the James Baldwin novel.
Kate Taylor, Globe and Mail

[It’s a] sublime follow-up to his Oscar-winning 2016 masterpiece.
Jason Bailey, The Playlist

If this movie doesn’t have the immediate, intimate power of Moonlight, it feels just as accomplished.
Norman Wilner, NOW Toronto

[It’s] certainly more accessible, in outline at least…far from the dreamy naturalism of Moonlight.
Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly

[The] tone is more Little Miss Sunshine than Moonlight for much of Jenkins’ third (and third-best) feature.
Peter Debruge, Variety


What does it say about Jenkins as a filmmaker?

If Beale Street Could Talk will be the end of Jenkins’ introduction. He now enters the halls of the greats. Moonlight was not a fluke, but the first of many. I cannot wait to see what he has in store next.
– Joelle Monique, Pajiba

[This] should further establish Jenkins’s bonafides as a legitimately great, consistent director.
– Chris Bumbray, JoBlo

[It’s] a movie that only hints at the filmmaker’s potential.
– Jordan Ruimy, World of Reel


Annapurna Pictures
(Photo by Annapurna Pictures)

Will fans of Baldwin’s novel appreciate the adaptation?

Barry Jenkins has crafted a visual lyrical poem out of Baldwin’s raw and impassioned words.
Joelle Monique, Pajiba

Jenkins captures the humor, verve, and considerable complexity of the prose.
Jason Bailey, The Playlist

The source material he has at his disposal, although incredibly moving on page, feels almost unfilmable on screen.
– Jordan Ruimy, World of Reel


What about fans of a certain Hong Kong filmmaker?

Romantic snippets invite readymade comparisons to Wong Kar Wai.
– Eric Kohn, IndieWire

The two [leads] seem to float in slow motion in the scenes before trouble strikes, often suggesting a direct homage to Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love.
– David Rooney, Holllywood Reporter

The big moments are the small and rapturous scenes with Tish and Fonny together, sensuously photographed with James Laxton’s Wong-Kar Wai inspired cinematography.
– Radheyan Simonpillai, Daily Hive


How are KiKi Layne and Stephan James?

These are star-making turns from Layne and James, the latter in particular making a searing impact.
Benjamin Lee, Guardian

The movie mostly belongs to Jenkins’ two young leads, who never fail to make their joy and pain luminous onscreen, even if it’s all a little too simplified and idealized.
Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly

Newcomer Layne is one of the most exciting people to happen to film in a long time… Layne guides the story with strength and patience. Know her name.
Joelle Monique, Pajiba

[KiKi] Layne isn’t experienced enough to shoulder the responsibility of persuading us through what could have been a more compelling journey.
Rubin Safaya, Cinemalogue


Annapurna Pictures
(Photo by Annapurna Pictures)

Do they have chemistry?

Both newcomer Layne and Canada’s own James are marvelous, so perfectly in tune when together that you still feel their connection when they’re apart.
– Radheyan Simonpillai, Daily Hive

The palpable chemistry between Layne and James makes Tish and Fonny indisputably the heart of the film.
– David Rooney, Holllywood Reporter

A pairing whose chemistry charms and bewitches – with every scene we feel more engaged and then enraged when they’re pulled further apart.
– Benjamin Lee, Guardian


Can we expect any supporting nominations?

Regina King… should probably start pulling some awards-show gowns now.” .
– Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly

Riveting and fraught with sadness. King owns every second she’s onscreen.
– Eric Kohn, IndieWire

King… is profound.
– Joelle Monique, Pajiba

The marvelous King is a quiet powerhouse throughout… it’s rewarding to see this superlative actress being put to strong use in a movie again.
– David Rooney, Holllywood Reporter


What else stands out about the film?

The film is achingly beautiful, each frame artfully composed…with a wider canvas and what appears to be a bigger budget than he had for Moonlight, Jenkins has created a film rich with lingering imagery, without it feeling too over-stylized.
– Benjamin Lee, Guardian

Composer Nicholas Britell gives Tish and Fonny orchestral string pieces so haunting and poignant that one pull of the bow feels like hours playing inside these intimate images.
– Matt Donnelly, The Wrap

Every music cue is intoxicating, imparting a bevy of connotations and echoes; does any contemporary filmmaker (aside from Scorsese, the standard-bearer) use popular music more evocatively.
– Jason Bailey, The Playlist


Annapurna Pictures
(Photo by Annapurna Pictures)

Are there any problems?

We just aren’t invested enough in the characters for it to connect as meaningfully as it deserves to.
– Rubin Safaya, Cinemalogue

Jenkins builds up a slow-moving narrative that doesn’t always hit the mark.
– Jordan Ruimy, World of Reel

The intermittent use of archival photographs of black men being brutally subjugated by white police and prison guards seems intended to provide the heft that’s missing in the main story.
– Liam Lacey, Original Cin

At times it can feel a tad unfocused.
– Benjamin Lee, Guardian


How many Oscar nominations will this one rack up?

The entire cast will be in the conversation when it’s time to decide who will go home with a trophy.
– Joelle Monique, Pajiba

It’s too good for the Oscars, I say. But then again, I said the same thing about Moonlight.
– Radheyan Simonpillai, Daily Hive


If Beale Street Could Talk premiered on Sunday at the Toronto International Film Festival, and it opens in limited release on Friday, November 30. Read all the reviews for it here.

#1
Adjusted Score: 97.11%
Critics Consensus: If Beale Street Could Talk honors its source material with a beautifully filmed adaptation that finds director Barry Jenkins further strengthening his visual and narrative craft.
Synopsis: Set in early-1970s Harlem, If Beale Street Could Talk is a timeless and moving love story of both a couple's... [More]
Directed By: Barry Jenkins (III)

Tag Cloud

45 Lucasfilm Nat Geo Sony Pictures Sundance Summer PaleyFest cooking composers Valentine's Day Action Showtime boxoffice Set visit E! CNN Syfy Election VICE AMC Pirates Extras VH1 Toys Walt Disney Pictures Food Network medical drama A&E See It Skip It cops dceu TV Tumblr TIFF cinemax DirecTV 2016 Ellie Kemper Netflix Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Sundance Now comiccon Winter TV Horror Trivia Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt thriller HBO American Society of Cinematographers Comedy Cartoon Network Reality Star Wars SXSW USA blaxploitation golden globes Sci-Fi MSNBC technology crime thriller Bravo TNT TruTV historical drama Quiz Paramount transformers ratings Lionsgate aliens biography Starz ABC Family Biopics GIFs Writers Guild of America hist romance cults Countdown Epix Marvel San Diego Comic-Con Adult Swim what to watch Disney Channel Calendar streaming NBC serial killer Trailer docudrama crossover ABC Nominations The CW 21st Century Fox DC Universe Shondaland YouTube Red SundanceTV comic IFC Films Oscars FXX CW Seed Opinion Mystery Spring TV Teen Logo Thanksgiving WGN dramedy PBS Star Trek Red Carpet Crackle Spike LGBTQ Country Drama SDCC ITV Trophy Talk harry potter discovery Kids & Family Masterpiece justice league Superheroes X-Men politics Martial Arts OWN dc History E3 BBC America Apple TCA 2017 Character Guide GLAAD Year in Review Awards robots TCA Interview Song of Ice and Fire Emmys war Mindy Kaling Pop Holidays Disney TV Land Ovation Photos Universal 2017 Mary Tyler Moore based on movie Superheroe Western FOX Hulu Rom-Com Pixar Acorn TV Polls and Games 20th Century Fox sitcom DC streaming service NYCC Freeform BBC CMT jamie lee curtis Columbia Pictures Comic Book Nickelodeon Sneak Peek Musicals TCM Grammys crime Britbox TBS political drama anime Super Bowl Infographic festivals RT History Amazon Podcast Schedule MTV Dark Horse Comics Ghostbusters Reality Competition Rock President Marathons Lifetime zombie television BET Comedy Central psycho singing competition Christmas mutant YA period drama El Rey finale IFC FX doctor who police drama TLC National Geographic Watching Series sports ESPN social media Premiere Dates Awards Tour Animation Video Games CBS All Access 2015 Music travel Cosplay New York Comic Con talk show Fall TV YouTube Premium vampires Best and Worst Comics on TV First Look Rocky Certified Fresh diversity GoT USA Network Paramount Network Fantasy Fox News Box Office APB Creative Arts Emmys CBS unscripted crime drama Winners Shudder Tomatazos cats zombies Esquire Musical spy thriller Warner Bros. adventure binge DC Comics 24 frames science fiction The Arrangement supernatural 007