This is all so very different,’ KiKi Layne says. “We see someone who has all these different things happening to her, but then we see her beginning to make things better and discovering her own power and energy.”
She’s thinking about her character in If Beale Street Could Talk, but she could also explain her own experience.
The film is the first of Layne and it’s hard to think of a more compelling debut in the history of modern cinema.
Directed by Barry Jenkins of Moonlight, and adapted from a novel by James Baldwin, If Beale Street Could Speak is a tale of young, black love in New York in the early 1970s and the challenges that it must conquer.
Layne begins the story as a reluctant and fragile teenager but develops before our eyes. Her daughter, Tish, is in love with a friend of her youth, a sculptor called Fonny (played by Stephan James).
She loses her virginity and becomes pregnant, even though they are not together. Yet instead, Fonny is convicted of a crime he did not commit and placed in prison.
The blossoming love of the pair stands in contrast to their harsh circumstances. “I hope no one has ever had to look through the glass at someone they love,” says Tish at one point – a line from Baldwin’s original letter.