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.

Adjusted Score: 111.916%
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

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt vampires justice league award winner Watching Series Holidays Christmas Brie Larson Nat Geo discovery Red Carpet Toys Music Quiz crossover spy thriller MTV ABC E3 golden globes 2017 Walt Disney Pictures travel Freeform X-Men RT History Marathons Sci-Fi History Lucasfilm Summer Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Valentine's Day festivals Captain marvel GoT romance DC Comics streaming cops USA crime thriller TLC Biopics based on movie Comedy Central Rocky crime drama Emmys Shondaland Logo hist New York Comic Con Election Oscars Marvel police drama Sony Pictures science fiction TCA Rom-Com USA Network sequel zombies Spike Amazon A&E First Look Black Mirror TIFF Fantasy TBS Comic Book Paramount Character Guide Western Reality Competition Spectrum Originals Comics on TV sitcom TNT GIFs medical drama SundanceTV Sundance Now GLAAD 007 2018 CBS Year in Review war VICE Star Wars HBO binge Mary Poppins Returns miniseries Comedy SXSW cults Pixar CBS All Access ratings blaxploitation Grammys Cosplay Martial Arts OWN composers Disney Premiere Dates Superheroes jamie lee curtis mutant elevated horror adventure WGN American Society of Cinematographers richard e. Grant Extras FXX harry potter Opinion Schedule 2016 dceu Ghostbusters 45 Syfy CNN Disney Channel Showtime Infographic Interview Paramount Network NYCC BBC Winter TV DGA IFC VH1 Best and Worst Mudbound Tumblr Anna Paquin Epix Fox News anime cinemax sports Musical Superheroe NBC Set visit YA zero dark thirty Awards Tour 24 frames Apple San Diego Comic-Con Lifetime docudrama Photos technology El Rey casting Dark Horse Comics zombie Warner Bros. AMC MCU Writers Guild of America ITV E! Britbox Star Trek Drama FOX ABC Family Pet Sematary crime Cartoon Network SDCC biography YouTube Red See It Skip It aliens dramedy Mary poppins Spring TV National Geographic Animation Box Office anthology Mystery Fall TV Mindy Kaling facebook Esquire green book Starz PBS TV Land Action Video Games psycho Nickelodeon Creative Arts Emmys Pop DirecTV transformers adaptation what to watch Food Network Sneak Peek cooking Certified Fresh Musicals Stephen King 21st Century Fox Reality BBC America thriller CW Seed LGBTQ cats TV Super Bowl Thanksgiving Pirates Horror Rock Shudder President TCA 2017 spider-man historical drama Nominations teaser TruTV finale unscripted Kids & Family diversity PaleyFest robots 2015 period drama Hulu mockumentary Crackle Amazon Prime comiccon true crime politics The Arrangement Polls and Games APB serial killer Masterpiece ESPN Netflix Ovation FX singing competition BET Ellie Kemper television Trailer Mary Tyler Moore Country DC streaming service Adult Swim Podcast 2019 YouTube Premium supernatural Columbia Pictures Awards doctor who comic Countdown IFC Films boxoffice MSNBC social media political drama theme song Winners Women's History Month Bravo Tomatazos Teen dc DC Universe Acorn TV 20th Century Fox witnail natural history Sundance talk show Trivia psychological thriller Song of Ice and Fire nature Trophy Talk Calendar TCM Lionsgate RT21 dragons Universal CMT The CW