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"THE PHOTOGRAPH"
(2020) (LaKeith Stanfield, Issa Rae) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Drama: A reporter ends up dating a woman whose mother ended her own similar romance decades ago by moving away from it, something the reporter might end up doing as well.
PLOT:

Michael Block (LaKEITH STANFIELD) is an investigative reporter from New York who's working on a story in Louisiana where he's interviewing an older man, Isaac Jefferson (ROB MORGAN), about his long lost love from decades ago, Christina Eames (CHANTE ADAMS), who ended their romance when she moved to New York to pursue a career in photography. Returning to the Big Apple, Mike meets her daughter, Mae Morton (ISSA RAE), who's recently found two letters from her mom who's recently passed away. One is for Mae and the other is for Isaac.

With his work intern friend Andy Morrison (KELVIN HARRISON JR.) in tow, Michael ends up on an impromptu double date of sorts with Mae and her friend Rachel Miller (JASMINE CEPHAS JONES) and both would-be couples hit it off. Michael's brother, Kyle (LIL REL HOWERY), later gives him a joking hard time about that, but Michael doesn't really care as he's completely smitten with Mae. A pending job offer far from home, however, might complicate matters, much like it did for Christina when she was seeing young Isaac (Y'LAN NOEL).

As the stories from the past and present alternate, it's uncertain whether the current romance will work or end up like the one from the past.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10

It's pretty amazing to think -- and today's kids probably won't believe -- that not that long ago it took a long time between pushing the shutter release button on a camera to actually seeing the results. Yes, Polaroid had its "instantaneous" solution, but for most people it involved waiting until you hit the final number of shots on the roll canister, driving to a store to drop that off, and then waiting a number of days to return to pick up the prints and hope that the shots were okay.

Yes, it was slow, and perhaps in honor of that and the fact that part of her story takes place back before digital photography was available, writer/director Stella Meghie has made her romantic drama "The Photograph" feel just about as temporally challenged.

One of those tales that takes place across multiple time frames, the contemporary part of the story focuses on journalist Michael Block (LaKeith Stanfield) who's traveled from New York to Louisiana to interview a man, Isaac (Rob Morgan), about a particular woman from his past. She was Christina Eames (Chante Adams) who longed to be a photographer in the Big Apple and thus abruptly ended their romance decades ago to do so.

Michael ends up meeting her adult daughter, Mae (Issa Rae), and is instantly smitten and the two quickly become a couple. The only thing that might smudge that picture is that he's applied for a job in London and thus might end up unintentionally following in the footsteps of his new lover's late mother. Interspersed with that are flashbacks showing Christina with young Isaac (Y'Lan Noel) and their romance.

And that's really about it. Sure, there are a few scenes involving Michael's brother (Lil Rel Howery) adding some comic relief as he chides his sibling about the romance, and there's some brief bits involving the two main characters' friends (played by Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Jasmine Cephas Jones). But overall there's not much plot here to fill the film's 106-minute running time.

Two letters left in Christina's safety deposit box -- one for Mae, the other for Isaac -- are supposed to pique our interest as to what they say in relation to what we've seen. But that's likewise so slow to develop and the "big" reveal is too easy to guess that its emotional impact is diminished.

All of that said, it is nice to see a regular romantic drama showcasing African-American characters as there really aren't that many nowadays and the romance -- especially the modern-day one -- feels authentic. I just wish the picture frame encasing that was more substantial. A photo may indeed say a thousand words, but in this case we'd need a lot more to make "The Photograph" rate as more than a 5 out of 10.




Reviewed February 12, 2020 / Posted February 14, 2020


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