My first vital query on last night's Oscars is why this most remark-able film didn't get even a nomination for 'Best Picture' when it's the first sure-fire entry for my Top Ten of 2019. It surely can't be that the 'deciders' had deemed that there were already 'too many' of the eight choices which included prominent roles for or featured a largely black cast, so they couldn't have another one. Perish the thought! Still, it did pick up one Oscar, for Regina King as Best Supporting Actress, and a well-merited one it was. It deserved much more.
Based on a novel by James Baldwin, with whose writings I was not acquainted until about 25 years ago when three of four of his novels were lent to me all at once by an admirer, and which I devoured one straight after the other. Having annoyingly misplaced my list of books read a few years ago (by then the titles had numbered over 2,000, excluding re-reads) I can't be sure that this wasn't one of them. I recall 'Go Tell It On the Mountain' and 'Giovanni's Room' but can't remember what else. Barry Jenkins, director of this film (and also of 'Moonlight') has made a superb picture from his own adaptation of the novel - involving and heart-rending, with a masterful, original method of film-making, with slow, languorous camera work (and music) to capture the mood of the moment spot-on.
The New-York based film starts with 19-year old Kiki Layne visiting her 22-year old boyfriend (Stephan James, looking rather older) in prison for something which we only find out about later, and there she tells him that she's expecting his baby. She hasn't even told her family yet - though when she does, despite her apprehensions, her mother (Oscar winner, Regina King), her father and her sister are all supportive of her with no recriminations. The only sour note is when her boyfriend's mother comes round and blames her for 'corrupting' her son.
The film employs liberal use of flashbacks (too many?) of the couple's intimacy, before the event which got him locked up.
It's the mother who does the running around and leads the investigation to try to prove her prospective son-in-law's innocence, and a very fine job Regina King makes of it. In fact the whole cast shines and some real affection between the young couple is evident throughout.
It might be a film too slow for some but I think it needed to take its time for one to savour the emotions it brings up. The music soundtrack is itself remarkable - mainly string, quasi-chamber music reflecting the intimacy of the relationships both of the couple and familial.
It's a film unusual in its executions and I've no complaints at all about that as it perfectly suits the atmosphere it evokes. My sole reservation remains is that there are rather a lot of flashbacks, all without warning or indication. I don't mind retrospective scenes in general though there will inevitably come a point where one wishes that its application was used just a bit more sparingly.
However, on the whole, this small-scale film works a treat, and I'm content to place it in the rarified ranks of an.............8.
(IMDb...................7.8 / Rott. Toms..................8.6 }
1 hour ago