'The Photograph': Movie Review
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From the Studio
When famed photographer Christina Eames unexpectedly dies, she leaves her estranged daughter Mae Morton (Issa Rae) hurt, angry and full of questions. When a photograph tucked away in a safe-deposit box is found, Mae finds herself on a journey delving into her mother’s early life and ignites a powerful, unexpected romance with a rising-star journalist, Michael Block (LaKeith Stanfield).
First and Lasting Impressions
Classic movies like Love and Basketball and Waiting to Exhale have become not just favorites but remain the leaders in the often under produced genre of films featuring people of color, sometimes termed “black romance.” With more films gaining popularity, (like the recent If Beale Street Could Talk from 2018), studios seem to be taking notice and are eager to produce what audiences crave.
In The Photograph, writer and director Stella Meghie brings a tender multi-generational love story to the big screen, and while the center of the story focuses on romantic love, Meghie takes time to explore other types of love – that between mother and daughter, father and daughter, step-families, friends, and siblings.
In a February 2020 interview on TV’s “The View,” star Issa Rae said “Stella was missing those stories that were purely love stories.” Co-star LaKeith Stanfield added they are “Happy to be able to showcase love between two dark skinned people on screen and show that all love is multi-dimensional and multi-faceted and hopefully everyone can enjoy their love story.”
Issa Rae commands the role of the confident and driven Mae. Rae might best be known for her television series “Insecure,” where she also served as executive producer, as on this film. Rae is gifted with deadpan delivery and brilliant timing in her comedic roles, but almost seemed mismatched with the intensity of the emotional and romantic scenes in the film. She at times appeared uncomfortable with her own character.
Stanfield had a growing resume before this project. He began training as an actor in his teens but his performance in the 2017 film Get Out caught people’s attention, and he shone in 2019’s Best Picture Oscar-nominated film Knives Out. He presents as very soft-spoken but intense in interviews, qualities that are mirrored in his character Michael. At some moments his courting of Mae edged into “creepy stalker” territory, but Stanfield’s easy charm reassured his honest intentions.
The audience I sat with for the screening was enthusiastic before it began. There was a jovial buzz throughout the theatre during the film which extended into the lobby after it ended. One attendee agreed that is was a good offering for the black romance genre. She felt Michael’s brother and his family were refreshing characters in that they helped show normal life. She was also glad to see that the film “didn’t follow down a stereotypical road of portraying southern African-Americans as poor and uneducated.”
The film dragged on a bit at a few points, but the stellar supporting cast helped move the story along. There was uproarious laughter, cheering, and a few tears by the end of the evening.
Know Before You Go
Though this is rated PG-13, there are a few love scenes and “hook-up” references that might make some viewers uncomfortable. I would certainly advise screening the film before bringing any young people to the flick. There were also a few cuss words, but the language and dialogue content were not crude.
Check out the trailer below!
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