The Reel Review
Issa Rae and LaKeith Stanfield (Uncut Gems, Atlanta) star in this romantic drama about Mae, a New York museum curator who receives two letters from her estranged mother, a famous photographer, shortly after her death from cancer. The contents send Mae on a revealing journey into her mother’s youthful past with her first love, a fisherman from her hometown in rural South Louisiana, just as a journalist stumbles upon Mae while working on a story about her mother.
Released just in time for Valentine’s Day weekend, The Photograph COULD have been a schlocky, predictable bore. But writer/director Stella Meghie (Jean of the Joneses) rises above that, letting these two, more grown up love stories slowly play out in a way that is more authentic, and as a result, infinitely more charming. Both love stories focus on the familiar challenges of differing career aspirations, miscommunication and fear of commitment, with elements reminiscent of the now classic 2004 romantic drama The Notebook. Yes, there will be tears.
The onscreen chemistry between the two sets of couples is undeniable – Issa Ray (Insecure, Little) has a smile that lights up a room, and Chanté Adams (Roxanne Roxanne, Monsters and Men) is equally compelling as Mae’s mother. That bus station scene – wow. The film’s cleverly intertwined stories, along with a stellar supporting cast (Y’lan Noel, Lil Rel Howery, Teyonah Parris), a sexy score and vivid images of New York, New Orleans and rural South Louisiana results in a modern, yet timeless message of love. In an era sorely lacking in big screen love stories, this one is a winner.
• Like her character in The Photograph, Issa Rae‘s real life mother is from Louisiana. Rae started writing and acting while attending Stanford University prior to her graduation in 2007.
• Prior to getting her degree in screenwriting, writer/director Stella Meghie was a public relations agent in New York’s fashion industry. She’s also worked as a director on the HBO TV series Insecure, written by and starring Issa Rae.