Intrigue, secrets, and romance follow ‘The Photograph’

Romantic flicks can either be good or they can suck. Every so often these types of movies land in between both of those worlds. That the dilemma with The Photograph, a romantic journey of a film starring Issa Rae (Insecure) and LaKeith Standfield.

Please forgive me for the late review, but since we have plenty of time on our hands now, let’s get right to it. The Photograph made its debut on the perfect romantic day of the year: Valentine’s Day.

My wife had been looking forward to seeing the film and being that it was a date night for us, we decided to head over to our nearest movie theater to catch the film.

I have to be honest, I was looking forward to seeing The Photograph as well. So I was a little excited about it. My enthusiasm was a bit curbed when my 16-year-old daughter (The teenager) tagged along with my wife and I. So there was not going to be many romantic fireworks going on that night except on the big screen.

And that can be debated.

Ok, so let’s get to The Photograph, which made off of a $16 million budget and tells the story of a woman in search of her mother’s past. Rae plays Mae Morton, who digs up a photograph in a safe deposit box her mother, an esteemed photographer, left behind after she passes.

LaKeith Stanfield and Issa Rae in The Photograph (2020).

Mae’s curiosity eventually about this particular photograph sets off a chain of events in her life that unexpectedly kills the cat as her obsession to find out more about this picture she stumbled on leads her knee-deep into a romance she was not anticipating.

It’s a good premise except that The Photograph falls flat on this promise. With Mae chasing down information to finally get the truth behind the photograph she found, her relationship with journalist Michael Block (Stanfield) turns up into a full-fledged love quest.

But the disappointment about The Photograph is that most of the movie felt like the two main characters do not always have the best on-scene chemistry. There are moments in The Photograph where you can feel the pulse-wracking bonding shared between Mae and Michael. Those moments are too far and in between.

A hot bedroom scene does not equate into an hour and 34 minutes of liquid soul searching with a lost message. The Photograph made just over $20 million worldwide, barely a cut above the movie’s budget. The film should have done more commercially. The best thing about The Photograph is that in a rare instance the movie-buying public was getting a look at black love.

You also have two gifted, young actors in a primetime role, and yet you have a storyline that effectively prevents what could have been. Rae, with her popular HBO series “Insecure,” is a natural beauty who lights up the screen with her megawatt smile.

Sometimes, though, a smile is simply not good enough to overcome choppy writing and a lack of romantic conviction.

As Blocker, Stanfield is the cool dude on the neighborhood block that you would want to hang out with. He has the stature, the looks and he has that swag thing going. A charismatic fellow, Blocker woo Mae with the quickness and before you know it the two become an item. Well, sort of. But it’s a bit more complicated than that.

The Photograph is not a total disaster. I thought it was a pretty decent movie. But when I think of the potential of the film and where it could have gone, in terms of connecting and reaching a broader audience, The Photograph missed a great opportunity.

Dennis J. Freeman Written by:

Dennis J. Freeman is a veteran journalist who enjoys the moviegoing experience and sharing his thoughts on films.

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