The simplicity of the concept belies the depth of emotion involved, the almost hypnotic tone (again augmented by Nicholas Britell’s musical score), or the sobering idea that the unequal justice regarding poor minority youth that Baldwin — the author and civil-rights activist — addressed in the ’70s remains a heated topic of conversation today.
The movie works so well because of its attention to detail, unwillingness to embrace easy answers and resistance to painting with a too-broad brush. When the couple has trouble finding a landlord who’ll rent to them, or encounter a racist cop, they also find moments of kindness and grace — including a white landlord who says all he cares about is seeing people who are happy together.
“If Beale Street Could Talk” portrays Tish and Fonny’s fleeting happiness but also doesn’t sugarcoat the impediments to it created by a system that treats young blacks as less than. Its director, meanwhile, has served notice — after the heady glow of “Moonlight” — that in terms of impeccably crafted drama, he’s by no means a one-hit wonder.
“If Beale Street Could Talk” premieres Dec. 14 in the US. It’s rated R.