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5 reasons to get excited about If Beale Street Could Talk


If you haven't yet heard of If Beale Street Could Talk, now is the time to take note.

Director Barry Jenkins' much anticipated follow-up to his celebrated Moonlight is set in early 1970s Harlem, and stars Stephan James as a young black man whose relationship with his pregnant girlfriend (KiKi Layne) is threatened when he is sent to jail on false charges.

If that provocative summary doesn't excite you, here are five more reasons to get prepared for If Beale Street Could Talk before it hits Cineworld in February.

1. It's based on the acclaimed novel by James Baldwin

A lot of great films have their basis in great novels, and Beale Street is no exception. The film is adapted from the 1974 story of the same name by James Baldwin, and follows Fonny, 22, and Tish, 19, a young couple very much in love. Things take a turn for the worse, however, when Fonny is falsely accused of sexual assault. To make things even more desperate, Tish falls pregnant.

The novel didn't make much of an impact on its release, but has since gone on to be seen as an important piece of American literature exploring the struggles of black communities.

Stephan James and KiKi Lane star in If Beale Street Could Talk

2. It touches on powerful issues

When James Baldwin said, "Every black person born in America was born on Beale Street, born in the black neighbourhood of some American city, whether in Jackson, Mississippi, or in Harlem, New York. Beale Street is our legacy," he was highlighting the difficulties and challenges black communities faced – and continue to face – all around America.

If Beale Street Could Talk is a tale of love and community, but it also shines a bright light on racism, inequality and the marginalisation of African-Americans. It will no doubt be an entertaining watch – but it will be an important watch, too.

3. It's directed by Moonlight film-maker Barry Jenkins

Director Barry Jenkins may only have a relatively small filmography behind him, but his CV, which includes films such as My Josephine (2003) and Medicine for Melancholy (2008), is filled with extraordinary quality.

His cinematic eye and deft knack for storytelling was cemented by his luminous and moving 2016 drama Moonlight. The drama follows the childhood, adolescence and young adulthood of Chiron, a young gay black man growing up in Miami, and it went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture. The film also picked up the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali) and Best Adapted Screenplay.

If that's anything to go by, Beale Street is in very safe hands indeed.

4. It features Race star Stephan James

Another reason to see If Beale Street Could Talk is that it stars the charismatic Stephan James, one of the most exciting young talents working today.

Although the acclaimed actor has starred in such films as Home Again (2012) and Selma (2014), James is best known for playing American athlete Jesse Owens in 2016's Race. It's the film that really got his name out there, with James delivering a standout performance as the four-time Olympic gold medallist, winning the Canadian Screen Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role for his efforts.

James will have no doubt put his all into Beale Street, too – more awards could well be on the cards.

5. The critics love it

With such a potent story at its heart, some incredibly talented actors and Barry Jenkins at the helm, it's little wonder that If Beale Street Could Talk is winning so many plaudits from critics.

It's received rave reviews from the likes of the BBC, The Guardian and Vanity Fair and currently averages a score of 94% on reviews aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes – a sure sign that we've got something special on our hands. Another Oscar-winner in the making, perhaps? Only time will tell...

Watch If Beale Street Could Talk in Cineworld from 8th February 2019. Don't forget to tweet us your thoughts on its Oscars chances @Cineworld.

Liam Turner is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.