The Photograph (2020)

The Photograph
Director: Stella Meghie
Writer: Stella Meghie
Cast: Issa Rae, LaKeith Stanfield, Chanté Adams, Y’lan Noel, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Lil Rel Howery, Teyonah Parris, Rob Morgan, Chelsea Peretti, Courtney B. Vance
Seen on: 16.9.2020

Michael (LaKeith Stanfield) is a journalist who has been working on a story for a while. When he interviews Isaac (Rob Morgan), a photograph catches his eye in Isaac’s home. Taken by a young photographer, Christine Eames (Chanté Adams) who was obviously very important to Isaac in the past (Y’lan Noel), Michael becomes interested in Christine’s life. But Christine passed away, so instead, Michael finds her daughter Mae (Issa Rae) who works as a curator in a museum. As they both rediscover her mother’s work and her past, the two are drawn to each other more and more.

I expected The Photograph to be a sappy love story and it is certainly that but it didn’t touch me quite as much as it should have.

The film poster showing Mae (Isaa Rae) and Michael (LaKeith Stanfield) pressing their foreheads together. The image is black and white.

The Photograph tells two stories that are connected and run parallel throughout the film. The story if Michael and Mae and the story of Isaac and Christine. Of the two stories, it’s the latter that really works in both the moments of love and of pain that the couple enocunters. Adams and Noel have wonderful chemistry, and especially Christine gets to be complicated and almost even difficult without judgment.

The more modern story has two wonderful leads, too – and my poor bi heart didn’t even know who to focus on at all because hot damn to both Rae and Stanfield. But the thing is that they always remained at a distance from each other. I couldn’t look at them as a couple – I always had to decide. And that is troublesome in a romance movie and why half of it felt a little lackluster.

MIchael (LaKeith Stanfield) leaning in to kiss Mae (Issa Rae).

I did like how the two stories were brought together, though. There may not be huge surprises here, at least if you’re familiar with genre conventions, but there’s a reconciliatory tone to the end – the love story of the past not ending happily, but the love story of the present not repeating past mistakes – that I loved. There is a good sense of humor here, too (especially in the scenes with Michael’s brother Kyle, played by Lil Rel Howery) that provides relief during the highly emotional rest of the film.

So there are many things that the film gets right and it’s certainly very watchable. But with the lack of intimacy in one of the two main couples, there’s a pretty major part missing that keeps the film from really fulfilling its full potential.

Isaac (Y'lan Noel) and Christine (Chanté Adams) cuddling.

Summarizing: Good, but not great.

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