In “The Photograph,” LaKeith Stanfield and Issa Rae as Michael and Mae talk music smack: Drake or Kendrick Lamar? Mae is all in with Drake. Michael is all in with Kendrick. And the twain shall not meet. Personally, I’m with Michael.
That being said, Writer and Director Stella Meghie displays her natural instinct for authentic dialogue: the ebb and flow. She’s also gifted with charismatic and beautiful LaKeith and Issa, who capture the soul of falling madly and deeply in love. Props to Stella for bringing to the screen a heartfelt straight up romance sans the conventional contrived narrative trappings. Yeah, love can be the journey of adversity, but ironically here, the predictable is welcome unpredictability. Just saying.
Mae is the smart, beautiful African American Art Museum curator in New York City. Her single Mom Christine had recently passed away from cancer. Her Mom left letters explaining her past, her regrets in life addressed to Mae.
Strong, innocent Chante’ Adams as the young Christine writes, “My Mae – I wish I would have put as much courage in love as I put into my work.” Although, Christine did her absolute best, she regrets not loving Mae enough. More to the point: she did not show her love enough. Tearful Mae gets that.
In 1984 Louisiana, Adams’s Christine was the young idealistic dreamer, who wanted to be a New York photographer, ditching her hometown confinement. Christine is in love with the handsome hard working crab fisherman Isaac, played by lovingly naïve Y’lan Noel.
Christine and Isaac are so in love, but they want such different lives. Boldly, Christine dares to make a life in New York as a photographer. She’s gifted and has grit. Unfortunately, Isaac is left in the aftermath. He keeps a photo he took of Mae with her own camera as a token of their love.
LaKeith’s Michael is the brilliant good-looking African American journalist from New York, who works for “The Republic”. It’s now 2020, Michael is in Louisiana researching his article on the older Isaac Jefferson, played by Rob Morgan with weary gravitas, and the crab fishing industry. Isaac shares about the great love of his life, Christine. Isaac’s greatest regret was that he never went after her. He gives Michael the photograph of Christine, telling him of Christine’s daughter Mae.
Back in New York, Michael has his protégé intern Andy, played by spritely funny Kelvin, research Mae. Consequently, Michael and Mae hook up albeit initially professionally. Michael recently ended his relationship. His brother Kyle, played by wry hysterical Lil Rel Howery, cautions Michael about getting into yet another. Kyle’s no psychic, but sees where this is headed.
Also, Michael is a man at his crossroads: What is he going to do with his life. He tells his annoyed Editor Sara, played by whimsically fostering Chelsea Peretti, that he applied for a job in London. WTF?
In the sweet interlude, Director Stella throws people obstacles between Mae and Michael, when Michael shows up unexpectedly at a movie screening. Taken with Mae, Michael gathers the courage to ask her out for a drink. Hence, the great Drake – Kendrick Lamar debate. Yeah, they’re falling in love. Will it work out? Are they willing to make it work?
“The Photograph” is at its best when Michael and Mae are their most authentic. Fortunately, that’s most of the movie in Stella’s poignant direction. LaKeith’s Michael has his epiphany: Although, he’s a good man, he’s kind of a ‘dog’. He starts to get over himself. Issa’s Mae isolated herself, to protect herself from getting hurt. Her epiphany: “My Mom wasn’t very good at love. I wonder if I’m just like her?” Issa and LaKeith share honest humanity and the touching doubt that we all have. That makes us genuinely pull for them. That’s the poignancy of “The Photograph”.
I was very sad with the passing of the late NBA legend Kobe Bryant. Kobe was my Hero because of his work ethic and his belief that you work to be the greatest that you can be. Amen. In one of his last interviews, he was asked “What is love for you?” Kobe said, “I would describe love as the beautiful journey… You persevere.”
That’s what’s special about “The Photograph”. No, love ain’t easy. If it’s worth having, then we persevere, we make it work. More than just saying. See “The Photograph” and you choose.
This post was previously published on IMDb.
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