Barry Jenkins Drops If Beale Street Could Talk Trailer on James Baldwin’s Birthday

Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty better practice opening envelopes.


Despite the memes, Moonlight wasn’t just heralded because it was the anti–La La Land. The film marked the arrival of an exciting new voice in American cinema in the form of director Barry Jenkins, and the Miami-born filmmaker has been busy on his follow-up ever since. Well, technically, he’s been busy working on it years before Moonlight ever filmed. Jenkins wrote the script to If Beale Street Could Talk, adapted from the James Baldwin novel of the same name, back in 2013 during the same summer in which he wrote Moonlight.

Jenkins dropped the trailer for the film on Twitter today ahead of its planned debut next month at the Toronto International Film Festival, and let’s just say that Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty had better get their envelope-reading skills in check because this certainly looks like it could be another awards-season darling.

The novel follows the story of a young couple in love in 1970s Harlem named Fonny and Tish whose relationship is abruptly upended when Fonny is imprisoned on false rape charges. Shortly afterward, Tish, only 19, discovers that she’s pregnant. Tish teams up with a lawyer to free Fonny before the child is born.

The trailer drop was a bit of a surprise, but the date isn’t random. Jenkins released it in celebration of Baldwin’s birthday. Indeed, it’s Baldwin himself who provides the narration to the trailer via archived recordings.

Relative newcomer Kiki Layne stars as Tish, while Stephen James, best known for starring in the Jessie Owens biopic Race, plays Fonny. Regina King (who, despite two recent Emmys, somehow last appeared in a film four years ago—the movie was Disney’s Planes) plays Tish’s mother, while Teyonah Parris and Coleman Domingo play her sister and father. The cast is rounded out by Dave Franco, Finn Wittrock, Ed Skrein, Diego Luna, and Pedro Pascal, though the first trailer focuses on the central characters and their families.

Perhaps most important, the film marks Jenkins’s latest collaboration with cinematography James Laxton, the man responsible for giving Moonlight its vivid hues.

The film is scheduled for theatrical release on November 30th.

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