The Photograph Review
It seems like romance movies take one of two forms. One is the romantic comedy, where humor is built around a bunch of cliches, they sort of take on the same template, which is why I never really got into them. The other form is a fairly standard romance movie, but those also have cliche's of their own and which very few have ever tried to do anything different with. There are very few straight up romance movies that I ever really take to.
"The Photograph" is an anomaly. It's a movie about love which themes are universal. There don't seem to be any cliches in sight, even if there are any or not. It's subtle. It's not necessarily a movie you've seen before. It is a movie full of real people who just happen to be played by actors, not characters you really see in a movie. Their interactions are relatable, their flirting is smart. This is the type of romance movie I hope to see every time there is one at the theater.
Issa Rae plays Mae, who is fairly distraught and confused after the passing of her mother. Mae's mother was an acclaimed photographer and Mae was estranged from her for many years. Not too long after her passing, an old photo from Mae's mother's past is revealed from a safety deposit box. This leaves Mae wanting even more to find out more about her mother's life, right as she begins a budding romance with rising journalist Michael Block (Lakeith Stanfield). Just reading that synopsis, you probably feel like you've seen this before. It may seem like one of those movies where everything lines up perfectly. It may sound it feels like an episode of "This Is Us" or 2018's "Life Itself" where circumstance, karma and life seem to feed off others in cheesy ways. Well, "The Photograph" is exactly that.
Like I said, its a smart romance movie. It gets us to care about the characters, to relate to them. The movie is full of smart flirting and beats from relationships I am sure all will recognize. It's a movie about familiarity without being on-the-nose. It's funny without being cheesy. It's dramatic without being melodramatic. It builds upon its themes without adding any unnecessary silliness to make the movie more interesting. Simply put, it's a love story without any stupid crap added to it and it actually makes for an interesting plot.
Lakeith Stanfield is the next big thing. I can just tell. I saw him in "Sorry to Bother You" in 2018. He was great in both "Kives Out" and "Uncut Gems" last year. If you haven't begun watching "Atlanta" on FX yet, you are missing out on one of the very best television shows on right now, which he is apart of. I love the guy and he does a knock-out job in this movie. The romance between his character and Issa Rae in the glue to the entire movie, and they are perfectly coupled together. Issa Rae is also fantastic in this movie. The entire cast does a very good job here, but the whole movie is steered by Stanfiled and Rae, both of whom do excellent work here.
This is a different kind of love story, and it just might work for you.
FINAL GRADE: B