Film Review: The Photograph

Review by Frances Winston

Directed by: Stella Meghie – Starring: Issa Rae, Dakota Paradise, Lakeith Stanfield, Chelsea Peretti, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Chanté Adams, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Lil Rel Howery, Teyonah Parris, Rob Morgan, Courtney B. Vance

This romantic drama from writer/director, Stella Meghie, follows Mae Morton (Rae) as she uncovers the truth about her mother’s background and loves, following her death.

Her mother, Christina (Adams) was an acclaimed photographer, which leads a journalist, Michael (Stanfield) to investigate her life. As he delves farther into her story, he and Mae fall in love. But many skeletons are about to be unleashed from the closet, which will have a ripple-effect on Mae and Michael’s life and romance in the present.

This is visually stunning. It bounces back and forth in time, between Christina’s story and present day, and Meghie has done a great job of giving both story threads their own individual look and feel, while never compromising the coherency of the film.

Her script is thoughtful and well-paced, and although this develops slowly, it never feels like it drags.

The love story between Michael and Mae builds beautifully (it’s actually refreshing to see a romance where the couple don’t fall in love in the first five minutes) and is wonderfully handled, and always believable. This is helped by the fact that Rae and Stanfield have a wonderful chemistry, and are totally believable in the roles.

They are ably supported by a stellar cast, all of whom give wonderful performances. Adams in particular is fantastic as Cristina, a woman who makes difficult choices to improve her life, but then must live with the consequences.

Intertwining two separate stories isn’t a new idea, but it is rare to see it handled so seamlessly. It never feels forced – just totally organic. The story is clever, and doesn’t try to shock or sensationalise any aspects. It is just a lovely gentle film that deals with the human condition, and the consequences of past actions on our present.

Sweet, touching, and sensitive, this is a refreshing antidote to the formulaic ‘romance’ movies that are churned out far too often by studios.

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