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Despite their tender ages, 18 and 16 respectively, Baby (Alexandre O Gou) and Clim (Laure Raoust) – long-time childhood sweethearts in a seaside, working-class neighbourhood of Marseilles – are not only in love, they are determined to be married. An interracial couple – Baby is Black, Clim is Caucasian – their dizzy joy is shattered when Baby is framed by a racist cop, and thrown in prison to await trial. Then Clim discovers she is pregnant to Baby. Clim, her family and Baby’s family will require each other’s support in the formidable struggle to prove Baby’s innocence. In the process, a remarkable bond is formed between Clim’s father, Joel (Jean-Pierre Darroussin), and Baby’s adoptive father Franck (Gerard Meylan).

"Robert Guediguian’s masterful interpretation of the James Baldwin novel If Beale Street Could Talk transports us directly into the midst of its characters’ travails. This is the secret of the resonance and sensitivity it evokes from a remarkably simple story. The brilliance of If Beale Street Could Talk – set among a seething amalgam of bigotry, sanctimony and poverty in 1970s Harlem – lies more in the psychology and relationships of its characters than in their battle against racial injustice. Under the aegis of Guediguian’s direction, Baldwin’s narrative survives a journey across the Atlantic, a two-decade skip forward in time and the transfiguring of its two black American young lovers to an even younger interracial couple, not to mention the A La Place Du Coeur title transplant, with its own Le Coeur beating vigorously. Love in all its guises – romantic, erotic, uxorious, filial, maternal – is rarely portrayed with such honesty and insight. Stunning performances by the entire cast augment Guediguian’s fine sense of subtlety to realise an intelligent and sensual portrait of desire and resilience, self-righteousness and self-sacrifice. As the story seamlessly unveils in episodic flashbacks, the bonds between the characters are forged and tested, their individual determination called upon and their varying faiths and driving forces revealed. This is one of those rare films that present a slice of life au naturel; the vicissitudes, hardships and tragedies offset by glimmers of hope and the sustenance of love. See it, and take a glimpse into the essence of reality."
Brad Green

"The word 'humanist' gets bandied around a lot in current film criticism and promotion. For example, the catalogue for the recent Melbourne Film Festival states that Claire Denis is 'undeniably humanist' and Abbas Kiarostami 'profoundly humanist' - which tells you precious little about what either director's films are actually like. In the same catalogue, Robert Guediguan is cited as another shining example of current French humanism. In his case, the description is more relevant, because he does try and make films that glorify ordinary people. This superfically realistic portrait of a working-class family and neighbourhood is filled with overdetermined images of health and happiness. We see the plump, youthful glow of a pregnant teenager; the nobility of her black boyfriend; a lyrical flashback to the pair of them swimming together as children, their smooth bodies moving beneath sunlit blue water. Guediguan has enough restraint (for example, in his discreet use of music) to make scenes like this attractive: he's not a grossly sentimental, manipulative director. Still, the film depends on his idealised notion of a modern 'organic community' - in touch with the joy of life, bound by communal spirit, and able to overcome human prejudice and weakness. This often seems like a strangely unfashionable utopia, as when Guediguan (through Clim's narration) insists on eternal biological truths about men and women, or praises the dignity of skilled trades like being a builder. (How many builders truly see their work as what they were born to do?) Politically, the film can be seen as either radical or conservative: it insists that working people should stick together - but if their lives are so glorious, why should they want to change anything? However, while the film illustrates many of the problems facing so-called humanist cinema, it's serious enough to be worth arguing with."
Jake Wilson

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French with English subtitles.

CAST:Alexandre O. Gou, Laure Raoust, Ariane Ascaride, Christine Brücher, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Gérard Meylan

DIRECTOR: Robert Guédiguian

PRODUCER: Gilles Sandoz

SCRIPT: Robert Guédiguian, Jean-Louis Milesi (novel by James Baldwin)


EDITOR: Bernard Sasia

MUSIC: Jacques Menichetti

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Michel Vandestien

RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 6, 2000 (Sydney)
August 24, 2000 (Melbourne)

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