The Photograph was the perfect film to watch on Valentine’s Day: a classic romance with nostalgic nods, a jazzy soundtrack, and lovely acting. The film takes place in both New York and New Orleans, with these settings actually playing a fun role themselves. Actors Issa Rae and LaKeith Stanfield star opposite one another, and it was something new to see Issa Rae play a more reserved character. I love her in the HBO series, Insecure, and she was hilarious in the 2019 film, Little. I’m so used to seeing her in comedies, and I think that is where her strengths lie—maybe that’s the reason that her delivery on some of the more serious dialogue felt forced to me. The supporting cast almost outshines the two leads: Lil Rel Howery (Get Out, Bird Box) and Kevin Harrison Jr. (Mudbound, It Comes At Night) played characters who provided some much needed comic relief.
The love story between the two leads begins when journalist Michael Block (Stanfield) discovers a photograph (get it?) while working on a story in New Orleans. He wants to learn more about the photographer of said photograph, and is led to Mae (Rae), whose mother was the photographer. The film goes between modern times and the past, following her mother’s romantic life in 1980’s New Orleans, and her own love story with Stanfield. The juxtaposition between the mother-daughter relationship through the time jumps was well-executed.
Being a photography major, I really enjoyed the nostalgic storyline of “the past.” Much of it took place in a DIY darkroom, while prints were being developed. The care and detail that went into showing the delicate process of film photography was lovely. This is something I think the film portrayed really well: the fact that photographs can be instrumental in telling a story that can last decades and connect us to our loved ones’ pasts. In all, The Photograph was an enjoyable romance, following most stereotypes of the genre, which is why I say it was slightly lackluster. The cast, nostalgia, and the soundtrack were the highlights of the film.
Recommendation: MAYBE A MATINEE