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James Baldwin

Review: Barry Jenkins' 'If Beale Street Could Talk' is a gorgeous, radically empathetic follow-up to 'Moonlight'

Review: Barry Jenkins' 'If Beale Street Could Talk' is a gorgeous, radically empathetic follow-up to 'Moonlight'

Every so often in “If Beale Street Could Talk,” Barry Jenkins’ sobering yet intoxicating adaptation of James Baldwin’s 1974 novel, two young lovers named Tish (KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James) lock gazes with one another and with the camera. The director frames each one of them head-on; they stare into each other’s eyes as we stare into theirs.

The stillness of the effect is a little unsettling at first; you have to slow your rhythms and adjust your way of seeing. But it is also quietly overpowering, a reminder that there are few landscapes more expressive or inexhaustible than the human face.

Few filmmakers implore you to scrutinize their characters as closely as does...

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