The Photograph, a movie about black love and generational stories, was released in theaters across America on Valentine’s Day. Directed by Stella Meghie, the romantic drama had a screen time of 1 hour and 46 minutes, but at times felt much longer.
The movie follows the storyline of Mae Morton (Issa Rae) who is hurt and full of questions after the passing of her mother, famed photographer Christina Eames (Chante Adams). When Mae stumbles across a photograph that is tucked away in a safe-deposit box, Mae begins a journey delving into her mother’s early life and meets rising-star journalist, Michael Block (LaKeith Stanfield), who is assigned in covering her late mother, soon triggering an unexpected yet powerful romance.
Beginning his coverage, Block meets Louisianian Isaac Jefferson (Rob Morgan) for an interview for his story on Eames after her recent passing. Jefferson tells Block that he knew the photographer back before she became New York famous but leaves out a rather large portion of the nature of their true relationship that only came to a halt once Eames left Louisiana for New York. Looking to undercover further information about his assignment, Block locates her only daughter, Morton. However, Block soon finds himself more interested in Morton rather than merely Morton’s few memories of her mother. Block and Morton begin to build up a relationship as their research begins to reveal more about Eames’ 1984 past in Louisiana and the true identity of Morton’s father.
“The Photograph” tells two love stories in one movie: the 1984 romance between Eames and Jefferson, story B, and the present-day romantic encounters between Block and Morton, story A. The flashbacks to 1984 are spread out yet well developed as they establish why Eames raised Morton the way that she did and how Eames was in her everyday life while the present-day romance is what the movie is truly about, however; the two stories’ parallel tracks eventually come full circle. While the two stories weigh the similarities between the generations by personality traits and situations, it becomes apparent that Morton is not exactly like her mother. While her mother is shown to be driven and confident, Morton lacks that same confidence as she is often afraid to say how she feels yet has the same drive as her mother to go after it.
Because of Block’s recent attempt of landing a new job in London, the couple is threatened to be torn apart as Block is dedicated to furthering his career.
While Block and Morton are the movie’s main couple, the audience is also intrigued by story B, as it is the more heartbreaking, high stakes situation. As Eames feels the pull to leave Louisiana for New York and Jefferson wants nothing more than to stay in Louisiana, they split at the crossroads. It is filled with passion and adorable romance which often outdoes story A. Actors Rae and Stanfield’s passion in the story A seems flat compared to the actors in story B as Rae often seems more nervous than falling in love even next to her co-star’s laid-back demeanor. This causes the relationship to feel lopsided as if Stanfield’s character is more into Rae’s character than she is to him, dim chemistry that is crushing to see in a movie that had such potential. While Stanfield had a moderately strong performance, switching it up from his role in Someone Great or an oddball black nerd, Rae’s performance seems almost undercooked as if she is not fully engaged in the material and stands out in comedic moments rather than romantic ones. This causes this audience to feel tense at moments and the movie to come across as forced comedy at moments rather than a well-balanced movie.
Overall, “The Photograph” was a romantic movie that was an enjoyable Valentine’s Day watch despite its apparent flaws. As a multilayered movie that goes deeper than just telling a modern-day story, “The Photograph” is able to successfully, mostly, to take on two. The movie never seems to find the right balance between the two storylines and the audience is left feeling that story A is moderately underdone and the movie falls into romantic movie stereotypes as there are predictable aspects.
“The Photograph” had a budget of $16 million and made just over $12 million across 2,516 theatres in its opening weekend. It received a 74 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, yet is given mixed ratings across the media. “The Photograph” earns 6 out of 10 stars due to the feeling of it not reaching its full potential and the lack of chemistry between actors. “The Photograph” can be seen across America in theatres everywhere.