The Photograph, a new black love story starring Issa “Lookin’ Like a Bag of Money” Rae and Lakeith “Can I Measure Your Tree?” Stanfield, comes out in theaters nationwide on Friday, Feb. 14 (also known either as Valentine’s Day or “National I Don’t Celebrate That Commercialized Obligation of Love Day”). I had a chance to see it early and I have thoughts. No matter how you view it, going to see The Photograph would be a good move to make this Valentine’s Day weekend. This is, as they say, for the lover in you.
So because I love love and because I’m rooting for everybody black (sue me), I will provide you with 10 black, non-spoiler reasons to go see The Photograph.
1. Issa Rae looks stunning.
Let’s start with the most obvious, Issa Rae looks STUNNING in this movie. STUN-NING. It’s reminiscent of how Lupita Nyong’o looked in Black Panther; when she’s on screen, you’re just drawn to her. Somebody needs to write a doctoral dissertation on the glow up of Issa Rae. She is 9/10ths of the reason to go see the movie. And I’m not even joking: Her black is beautiful.
2. The movie premise is actually pretty dope, and that premise is written and directed by a black woman.
I can’t lie, and maybe I’m slow, but I didn’t quite understand the movie from the trailer. But once the movie started and I got the story I thought to myself, “Self, wow, this is actually a dope plot.” And who provided that plot? Well, because we come to expect Issa to have a sizable hand in each and everything she does, most are inclined to think that she wrote it but she didn’t. The movie was written and directed by Stella Meghie, a black Canadian filmmaker and screenwriter who has written and directed three previous films.
3. New Orleans alert!
The movie is set in present-day New York City and in and around New Orleans, and other parts of Louisiana, in the past. (And New Orleans is a black-ass city.)
4. Rob Morgan almost took out my emotions.
Rob Morgan plays the older version of the character Y’Lan Noel plays, Isaac Jefferson. You may remember Rob Morgan from his role as Herbert Richardson in Just Mercy. Well, in this movie, he has one scene where his facial expression alone broke my whole heart. I’ve decided that this man is a national treasure. His scenes are awesome.
5. There’s a whole lot of black excellence in the cast.
This movie also features Lil Rel Howery doing his Lil Rel Howery thing—slightly tamed down. Like, imagine him in Southside, but with kids around. Courtney B. Vance is in it. Kelvin Harrison, Jr. is in it. There’s some solid knowable blackness all up and through the film.
6. This black movie has lots of black music.
There’s a lot of jazz all up and through the film, and black folks who watch movies about love, but not hood love (think movies like Plug Love or anything starring a member of 3LW, Ja Rule or Vivica A. Fox post-2000), love some jazz in a movie. But I also heard Ari Lennox and H.E.R. songs. I don’t know how old you are but if you’re my age, you remember how the soundtrack to Love Jones was a thing-thing. This movie’s in-movie soundtrack seems to follow that blueprint.
7. It will draw comparisons to Love Jones.
Let’s go on ahead and do this: The movie is very, very likely to draw comparisons to Love Jones, for many reasons. Between the music, the way the love story goes through motions, the artistic angle that weaves the entire story together, and so on, it’s not a reach. But it will mostly draw comparisons because, for whatever reason, we haven’t seen a love story like this in a good long while. We’ve had plenty of love stories; the early aughts were chock-full of creative love stories. I don’t know if I think it’s the new Love Jones or not; as of yet, I’m undecided. Love Jones, while overrated to me, is the landmark black love movie for folks of my generation. This could be the one for the next generation. Let’s just say that I’ll be very, very curious what the conversation surrounding this movie is once it drops.
8. Y’lan Noel and Chante Adams’ young black love story is good.
Y’lan Noel and Chante Adams do a great job—with great chemistry—establishing that love connection. It’s very The Notebook-esque in the early scenes that set the enduring love story that the movie tells. Their black love is present and accounted for.
9. It looks good and black.
It’s a beautiful movie. I know we like to say that a lot about movies nowadays. Queen & Slim was beautiful. Moonlight was beautiful. But that lighting they put on Issa? Beautiful. Because she was out here looking like a bag of money. Did I say that already? I think I did. It bears repeating. She was looking like a bag of rupees. A bag of British pounds. A bag of euros. A bag of Ghana cedis. A bag of drachmas. A bag of Canadian dollars.
10. It’s a Black Love Experience through and through.
It’s a black movie about black folks living in black spaces telling black stories (Lakeith’s character is a journalist, telling a black story that sets the entire plot in motion) for black people. If you’re rooting for everybody black, this is a movie you should go see. I’ve seen it already and I’ll go see it again. It’s both Black History Month and Valentine’s Day. It’s a Black Love experience.