The Morning After: Dec. 17, 2018

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

If Beale Street Could Talk

Many filmmakers over the years have explored the human condition, but few have given the black community the same attention to passion and detail as Barry Jenkins has in his second feature directorial effort If Beale Street Could Talk.

Based on the James Baldwin novel, the street in question is in Memphis, Tennessee, but the story takes place in Harlem where two young lovers (Tish and Fonny) struggle against the racial injustice of the era as she (KiKi Layne) discovers she’s pregnant after he (Stephan James) has been falsely accused of rape and is awaiting trial.

An incredibly well written drama, If Beale Street Could Talk features stirring performances from everyone, most notably Layne and James as the ill-fated lovers, Regina King and Colman Domingo as Tish’s parents, Teyonah Parris as Tish’s sister, Aunjanue Ellis and Michael Beach as Fonny’s separated parents, Ed Skrein as the racist cop, Emily Rios as the woman who’s accused Fonny of rape, and Brian Tyree Henry as one of Fonny’s friends who has recently been released from prison.

Jenkins’ dialogue is sparkling as is the photography by James Laxton as well as Nicholas Britell’s haunting and expressive score. Standing alongside Moonlight, this film carefully observes its characters, creating dramatic tension while avoiding pomp and excess. It’s a subtle, lived-in cinematic experience that feels like a familiar, but original historical slice of life.

A Quiet Place

For his third feature directorial effort, actor John Krasinski has chosen an impressive premise for which he shares screenplay credits with the film’s story writers Bryan Woods and Scott Beck. In addition to writing and directing A Quiet Place, Krasinski also starts in it alongside his real-life wife Emily Blunt.

Set in the near future after a blind alien race has descending on the planet and begun eradicating its life, survivors have taken to lives of sequestration where they must remain as quiet as possible or risk discovery by the sound-attuned creatures.

Blunt is magnificent as the matriarch of the family, pregnant with her fourth child. Krasinski is also strong as the father. Deaf actress Millicent Simmonds delivers a strong performance as their daughter.

While the performances are a key part of the film’s success, the premise itself is the reason everything works out so well. With few moments of dialogue and a script dominated by communication in American Sign Language, we’re given a thrilling soundscape of natural sounds, and bated breaths as the characters try to cope with utter silence.

Krasinski’s direction is excellent, keeping tension high and employing traditional techniques in interesting ways. The story is compelling and the final scene riveting. Everything is set up superbly and executed with aplomb, making this one of the most thrilling and inventive horror features in recent memory.

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