The Oscar-winning writer-director of 2016’s Moonlight, Barry Jenkins, released the trailer for his new film, If Beale Street Could Talk, yesterday. An adaptation of James Baldwin’s 1974 novel of the same name, the trailer was first shared in a Twitter post, on what would have been the writer’s 94th birthday.
The plot of If Beale Street Could Talk – adapted for film by Jenkins in 2013, at the same time he was writing Moonlight – centers around a relationship torn apart by a false rape accusation. Race leading man Stephan James and newcomer Kiki Layne will star as the central couple, alongside Chi-Raq’s Tayonnah Parris, Atlanta’s Bryan Tyree Henry, and Regina King, of The Leftovers.
As is to be expected of the subject matter – Layne’s character prepares to give birth to a child while trying to find evidence to free her husband – the trailer suggests a tragic tone through shots of dark, rainy New York streets and emotive headshots. Like Moonlight, it doesn’t look like it’s going to be an easy watch.
Playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, who shares Jenkins’ Moonlight Oscar for best adapted screenplay, praised the film’s depiction of the city when he was shown a cut early this year. “Tarell made this beautiful comment after seeing a cut of the film,” Jenkins told Vulture in April. “He’s like, ‘Oh, you made this New York. It’s not a New York of places. It’s a New York of faces.’”
Jenkins also explains, in the article, how he and cinematographer James Laxton inserted the sounds of New York into the film, recording ambient sounds and even buskers, leading to such serendipitous moments as when they remembered a saxophone player they’d recorded waiting for the train and used it to soundtrack a scene in the film.
Toronto International Film Festival will see the premiere of If Beale Street Could Talk, with a US release on November 30 and a UK opening on January 18. And Jenkins is set to continue with his literature-influenced productions; next up for the writer-director is an adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad for Amazon.