Just in time for Valentine’s Day here comes the smart romantic movie, The Photograph. I call it smart because of the positive depictions of African American life and the characters in it. The main characters are Mae, played by Issa Rae, and Michael, portrayed by Lakeith Stanfield. She is a curator at the Queens Museum and he is a writer for a magazine called The Republic.

The movie runs with two parallel storylines. The current story with the professional couple going through the ups and downs of a new relationship and the background story of Mae’s mother, who passed away without ever informing her daughter that she was sick. She was a photographer and a single mother with serious issues involving men and relationships. The two stories are woven together to make a very entertaining movie about a mother and daughter’s relationship and how the past has an impact on our current day life.

The chemistry between Rae and Stanfield is sizzling. They heat up the big screen with an obvious love for each other, however, neither of them has the courage to go all the way in on a committed relationship. Mae fears that she is just like her mother, a free spirit who cannot commit to an exclusive relationship and Michael is a “player” who jumps from relationship to relationship.

Director Stella Meghie, who also wrote the script, does a masterful job with the talented ensemble. She gets much of the credit for making such a smart film. The rest of the cast is strong. Chante Adams as Mae’s mother gives an Oscar-caliber performance and Lil Rel Howery, as Michael’s best friend, gives the film a real comedic edge.

I liked how Director Stella Meghie took the high road in her portrayal of the African American cast. This is truly a black love story but it can be enjoyed by all.

The movie is rated PG-13 for some very sexual scenes (but there is no nudity) and it has a run time of 1 hour and 46 minutes. On my “Hollywood Popcorn Scale” The Photograph rates a JUMBO.

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