This beautifully acted, lovingly adapted drama about love, family, and (in)justice in America deserves a wide audience. King is especially wonderful as Tish's patient, wise mother, Sharon, who not only embraces and guides her daughter through an unexpected pregnancy but also travels all the way to Puerto Rico to track down the woman who falsely accused Fonny. But it's not just King who's outstanding -- all the performances in If Beale Street Could Talk are nuanced, from Layne's and James' central young couple to much smaller but evocative roles, like Ellis as the angry, judgmental, and religious Mrs. Hunt, Parris as Tish's take-charge sister, and the two different but bonding grandfathers-to-be, played by Domingo and Beach. The gifted cast is even graced by tiny but powerful performances from Dave Franco, Diego Luna, and Brian Tyree Henry as, respectively, a likable landlord and two of Fonny's friends.
Jenkins tells Tish and Fonny's story with frequent flashbacks, sharing everything from their earliest memories to all of their important firsts. Composer Nicholas Britell's evocative, jazzy score perfectly complements the drama and romance. The movie, like the novel, doesn't shy away from uncomfortable conversations and themes -- the scene in which Tish reveals her pregnancy to Fonny's family and one later, when it's clear that the incarcerated Fonny is losing help, are particularly gut-wrenching. But through it all, Fonny and Tish remain steadfastly surrounded by their love and the love of her family. Despite everything they must overcome, Fonny and Tish's love is real and enduring -- and a beautiful thing to behold.