© Universal Pictures International Germany GmbH

The Photograph
U.S.A. 2020

Opening 27 Aug 2020

Directed by: Stella Meghie
Writing credits: Stella Meghie
Principal actors: Issa Rae, LaKeith Stanfield, Chanté Adams, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Lil Rel Howery

Christine Eames (Chanté Adams) and Issac Jafferson (Y’lan Noel) are dating in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. Issac is serious about the relationship, but Christine visualizes herself as a successful photographer and moves to New York to follow her dream. Issac reluctantly accepts the situation and marries Ashley. Christine, accompanied by her small daughter Mae, meets Issac one more time.

A generation later in the 1980s we meet Mae (Issa Rae) as an adult, working for an art museum in Queens, New York. She is dating Michael Block (LaKeith Stanfield), a writer for The Republic; he met Mae while researching an article about her deceased mother. Here, too, the relationship is affected by separation; Michael accepts a job with the Associated Press and moves to London. Mae finds a letter from her mother, as well as photos, which clarify some of the past. There is also a letter for Mae’s “father.” We can guess who that is.

Here we experience two couples whose attractions to each other are not strong enough to withstand decisions to move apart. The two parallel stories switch back and forth in flashbacks between mother and daughter. Christine says, “I wish I was as good in love as I am in working.” Perhaps that is the problem: jobs have priority. They discuss philosophically “whom we surround ourselves with.”

Sadly, the basic plot is so banal as to be uninteresting. Perhaps if Christine Eames had been a famous photographer and not just fiction, we might have found importance in the tale. Even 21 songs and soupy music by Robert Glasper cannot keep us awake. Luckily, all is not lost, simply because the excellent (all Black) cast is so talented, that we eagerly look forward to more films, hopefully with plots worthy of their abilities, especially for the beautiful Issa Rae. The photography of scenes in Louisiana and New York also help make our time worthwhile. (Becky Tan)

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