By Ashleigh Fields
“The Photograph” is the epitome of a healthy black love story. With its strong parallels to 90’s romance films like, “Love Jones,” or “Brown Sugar,” it finds the perfect medium between past and present to show the evolution of black love. But behind the 90s nostalgia, the impeccable camera angles and a killer soundtrack the true core of the film resides in its message of going after what you want.
The film follows the main character Mae played by Issa Rae as she embarks on a journey to discover the past of her mother, a famous photographer. In the process, she unearths a photograph of her mother in a safe deposit box which leads to more questions than answers.
Coincidentally, Michael, played by Lakeith Stanfield is writing a story on Mae’s mother which brings the two together. As they dive deeper into the mystery of her mother’s love life, they notice their relentless attraction to one another. The unexpected romance and chemistry between the leads leave the audience wanting to believe in and root for this love. Especially after uncovering the reason behind her mother’s failed relationship that oddly resembles Mae and Michael’s.
In the movie it’s clear that Mae’s biggest character flaw was her fear of falling into the same cyclical pattern that her mother did; using her work as a cover to prevent her from going for the love she, not only wanted but, undoubtedly deserved. However, Michael refuses to let her do so. In moments of indecision, he pulls her closer and relies on intimacy to bridge the bond between the two.
Their desire for each other is not only seen in the script but amplified by the settings background. The film is captured in a big city during evening hours. The low lighting bounces perfectly off of the actors’ skin as their most revealing conversations take place. Director, Stella Meghie uses the lighting not only to accentuate the actors’ melanin but also to highlight the film’s theme of uncertainty. There is an undeniable presence of darkness that can only be accredited to moments of unforeseen revelations, most of them arising after more discoveries about Mae and her mother.
In some ways the film places too much emphasis on Mae’s mother’s relationship, reminding the audience too much of what should’ve been and in a way distracts from what should be.
But despite the twists and turns in the plot from flashbacks to present-day scenarios, the essence of love is at the core of the movie. Its release on Valentine’s Day will only challenge lovers to a test of commitment rather than the test of time.
However, viewers who are single may find it easy to become entranced by the looks put together by Rae’s stylist. Her clothes project businesswoman vibes which is a stark contrast to her character in HBO’s “Insecure.” However, she’s not the only one breaking the mold in this film. Stanfield who appears on FX’s Atlanta is also starring in a role that differs from his norm. Both have recently appeared in acclaimed movies like, “The Hate U Give” and “Get Out”. “The Photograph” is just yet another reminder of each actor’s talent and range.
Whether you’re in a relationship or single the movie provides food for thought. And in a world where life seems to come at you non-stop, this movie implores its audience to take a breather and seek out what it actually desires over what its obligations seem to be. That is why this Valentine’s Day people should take a snapshot out of their life, no matter how busy it may seem, to capture a moment with “The Photograph.”