The Radio Times logo
We may earn commission from links on this page. Our editorial is always independent (learn more)

If Beale Street Could Talk

  • Drama
  • Romance
  • 2018
  • Barry Jenkins (2)
  • 114 mins
  • 15


In early 1970s Harlem, 19-year old Tish Rivers recalls the longtime relationship between her and fiancé Alonzo `Fonny" Hunt. With a child on the way, their plans of starting a family and embracing the future are derailed when Fonny is arrested for a crime he did not commit. Director Barry Jenkins' Oscar-winning drama, starring KiKi Layne and Stephan James

Powered By


A star rating of 5 out of 5.

The Harlem-set love story based on the novel by the great American observer James Baldwin is a good fit for Barry Jenkins after his Oscar-winning breakthrough Moonlight (2016). Arguably a variation on a Romeo and Juliet romance, staged in the early 1970s, only here central couple 19-year-old Tish (KiKi Layne) and 22-year-old Fonny (Stephan James) are kept apart not by warring families, but the institutional racism of everyday life, which is especially acute for young black men. In voiceover prudently lifted from the text, Tish proclaims: "I hope that nobody has ever had to look at anybody they love through glass" - a reference to the partition that separates visitor from inmate in prison, where Fonny winds up. Their love blossoms in flashback, with a visual poetry that confirms the film as a thematic, artistic and political cousin to Moonlight, though the narrative is much more deliberate and sincere. Like Moonlight, it's beautifully shot by cinematographer James Laxton and resonates emotionally in parallel to Nicholas Britell's languid score. An unashamedly idealised depiction of love and hate (the latter grimacingly embodied by Ed Skrein's racist cop), it succeeds in making the heartache of this couple's separation after a swooningly decorous courtship even more painful and cruelly truncated. It's fabulously acted, too, with rich, nuanced performances from the whole cast, though Oscar and Golden Globe winner Regina King stands out as Tish's righteous mother. You sense Jenkins is already forging an important body of work.



Clementine "Tish" RiversKiki Layne
Alonzo "Fonny" HuntStephan James
Sharon RiversRegina King
Joseph RiversColman Domingo
Frank HuntMichael Beach
Ernestine RiversTeyonah Parris
Mrs HuntAunjanue Ellis
Officer BellEd Skrein
LevyDave Franco
Pietro AlvarezPedro Pascal
PedrocitoDiego Luna
Daniel CartyBrian Tyree Henry
HaywardFinn Wittrock
Victoria RogersEmily Rios


DirectorBarry Jenkins (2)


Theatrical distributor
Entertainment One
Released on
English | Spanish
Violence, swearing, sex scenes, nudity
Available on
DVD and Blu-ray
Advertisement is getting better. Fresh new look, redesigned programme hub, richer content…


Sponsored content