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Moving back and forth through time, we meet Tish (newcomer KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James), lovers in 70’s Manhatten, whose bond is tested when Fonny is falsely accused of a crime. As he awaits trail, Tish tries desperately to get him released while her mother (a heartbreaking performance by Regina King) must decide how far she will go to secure her daughter’s future.
Like MOONLIGHT, it’s emotionally devastating, almost overwhelmingly so; focused not just on the characters’ relationships with each other but also with their haunting interior lives and the spaces in between. In this way Jenkins creates a feeling of lived experience, not merely telling a love story but viscerally elucidating the internal costs of survival as a black person in America in a way that feels true to Baldwin’s bitter wisdom.
It’s a dazzling, searing film, that contains and offers multitudes; Jenkins adding to the pantheon of black cinema with something celebratory – a lyrical story of community and love – even as he simultaneously depicts tremendous pain.