Following an Oscar win for only your second feature leads to fairly high expectations.

Thankfully, Moonlight director Barry Jenkins rises to the challenge and delivers a gorgeous adaptation of James Baldwin's If Beale Street Could Talk.

Fonny and Tish, childhood friends turned lovers, find their relationship tested when Fonny is imprisoned after being wrongly accused of rape and Tish finds out she is pregnant.

Part swooning romance, part angry drama of racial injustice, If Beale Street Could Talk is a compelling and beautifully shot drama that cements Jenkins as one of the finest US directors currently working. Reuniting with director of photography James Laxton and composer Nicholas Britell is key to ensuring it feels and sounds as vital as Moonlight.

Stephan James and Kiki Layne are exceptional as the young lovers, while Regina King and Colman Domingo are dignity personified as Tish's parents. Ed Skrein is suitably unpleasant as the racist cop who has it out for Fonny, while Atlanta's Brian Tyree Henry is outstanding in a brief cameo as an old friend. The scene in which he recounts his own prison experience is electric.

This perhaps doesn't quite have the impact that Moonlight had but then that would be a lot to expect. On its own terms however this is an impressive achievement, a drama that manages to be beautiful and angry, often at the same time. One of the more significant films of the year.

By Kevin Knapman

If Beale Street Could Talk (15)

1h 59m

Director: Barry Jenkins
Starring: KiKi Layne, Stephan James, Regina King, Colman Domingo, Teyonah Parris, Brian Tyree Henry, Michael Beach

UK Release: Friday 8th February 2019

If Beale Street Could Talk - "It's Your Grandchild" Clip

If Beale Street Could Talk - "New Life" Clip