As soon as the trailer for “The Photograph” dropped, the film’s target audience fell as in love with the idea of the film as Issa Rae and LaKeith Stanfield fell for each other in the clip.
Oh the joy as Rae’s gorgeous doe eyes connected with the long lashes and mysterious gaze that has Stanfield in the running as the next “it” guy among black male leading actors.
In 2020, would see a beautifully shot love story overloaded with melanin, but minus the trauma that was attached to 2019’s “Queen and Slim.”
Could it be the next “Love Jones?” Sadly, it didn’t come close. After watching “The Photograph,” audiences will be confronted with the question, “who knew black love could be so boring?”
Canadian filmmaker Stella Meghie deserves major points for the ambition of writing and directing a beautifully shot film that tells two intersecting black love stories that span across two generations and three decades within one film. However, the convoluted and far-fetched story fails the film’s intention and the audience’s expectation.
With her SXSW debut “Jean of the Joneses” Meghie found herself on the radar of the Hollywood film industry.
Her follow-up, the film adaptation of the best-selling novel “Everything, Everything,” further showcased her potential, though it lacked intensity. The same could be said With “The Weekend.” She illustrated her willingness to take risks and tell stories that were off the beaten path for black characters and situations on film.
“The Photograph” is more traditional in its format compared to her other films, but shares the common bond in its inability to convey passion or fully engage audiences.
Michael Block is a big time New York City journalist covering a story. Though the nature of the article he aims to write is never clear, though he travels to south Louisiana to get sources for it and stumbles into a complicated romance in the process of pulling the piece together.
A quest to learn about another subject to source in his article leads him to a love interest in an art museum associate curator named Mae Morton.
As they get to know each other, the complicated love life of Isaac Jefferson and Mae’s mother Christina Eames – the subjects of Michael’s article – is told simultaneously through flashbacks.
The chemistry between Rae and Stanfield is so real one can’t help but root for. But the space in between as they attempt to connect the dots of their love story will leave audiences lost in the wide-open spaces.
Ironically the sidebar/ prequel subplot featuring the romance of Christina and Isaac is far more compelling.
As they attempt to wrap their hearts and minds around the implausible and at times confusing whirlwind courtship of Michael and Mae, viewers will find themselves drifting through the real time relationship as a means to an end to transition them into the nostalgic one.
The performances keep the viewer invested in seeing “The Photograph” to finish line long after the story should have compelled them to check out – particularly with Y’Lan Noel and Chante Adams as young Isaac as Christina and Rob Morgan as present-day Isaac. In all fairness to Rae and Stanfield, their element of the film – that sees Michael blur the lines between his personal life and his work without much clarity or context – is too incomplete and rushed for audiences to fully buy into.
As Michael’s brother Kyle, Lil Rel Howery is charged with providing much of the comic relief. His presence feels more like inserted standup bits as opposed to related comedy that seamlessly adds a humor element to the experience of the film.
The film also features Courtney B. Vance, Teyonah Parris, Jasmine Cephas Jones and Marsha Stephanie Blake.
What a difference attention would have made for “The Photograph.” A movie that had the potential to be the first great black love story of the millennium’s second decade left audiences feeling restless – and void of a connection from an on-screen couple they so desperately wanted to root for.
The Photograph opened in theaters nationwide on Friday, February 14. The film is rated PG-13 with a running time of 106 minutes.