What happens when you pair the wonderful talents of Stella Meghie, who both wrote and directed this film, “The Photograph,” and the incredible on-screen chemistry between Issa Rae and Lakeith Stanfield? An excellent, soulful love story that evolves to the transcendent sounds of R & B, featuring artists such as Mos Def, Ari Lennox and H.E.R. Not to mention legendary singers, such as Luther Vandross and Whitney Houston, whose songs add an extra element of spark to the storyline.
Moviegoers are in for a treat as this romantic drama following Mae (Issa Rae), an art museum curator who recently lost her famous photographer mother, Christina Eames. Mae meets Michael (Lakeith Stanfield), a journalist working on a story about Eames; the two quickly develop a connection and enter a romantic journey neither was prepared for.
Before meeting Michael, Mae is trying to piece together her complicated relationship with her mother. She discovers two letters, one addressed to her and one to her father. Through Mae’s letter from her mother, the story goes from present to past, jumping to when Christina was young, in love and ready to start her career as a photographer in New York City. It is through these multiple time jumps that viewers see the relationship between Mae and Michael and between Christina and Isaac (Christina’s first love) build.
Sometimes, time jumping from the past to the present can prove to be confusing or lack meaning, but that was not an issue in this film. It was necessary for the story to go back into Christina’s past to see how it affected Mae in her adult life.
Mae learns that her mother struggled with her own feelings around love and relationships, both romantic and familial. Christina’s relationship with her own mother was complicated, so there is no surprise that she struggled to have a strong relationship with Mae.
While Mae is uncovering interesting pieces of her mother’s past, her romance with Michael slowly bubbles to the surface with cute conversation, awkward moments and a very passionate first kiss. Even though things are moving along smoothly, Michael receives an opportunity for his career that could threaten the beginning of what he and Mae have created.
Throughout the movie, Meghie conjures feelings of lost love, regret and relationships as viewers watch Mae and Michael fall for one another, despite the personal struggles they are each dealing with. Although this movie is advertised as a romantic story perfect for a date night, Meghie has a multi-layered story that involves more than the two co-stars’ budding romance.
Rae and Stanfield work well together and allow their characters to come to life in a way unseen in their previous roles. Black characters showcasing black love in the best light can only mean magic is bound to be the outcome.