Love is complicated. And yet so often Hollywood gives us simple, frothy, candy-coated displays of romance — especially over Valentine’s Day weekends. What if, for Valentine’s Day 2020, you took your sweetheart to a realistic, uncommonly deep love story? Starring, say, Issa Rae (Insecure) and LaKeith Stanfield (Atlanta), two of our most interesting actors? Written and directed by, oh, I don’t know, Stella Meghie (The Weekend), a filmmaker who tackles the nuances of modern identities with sensitive nuance? Then you’d be looking at The Photograph, the trailer of which debuts today.
Rae’s character Mae just dealt with an unexpected death in the family. And while all family deaths are complicated, this one is unprecedentedly so — Mae’s mother (Chanté Adams) was a famous photographer who put her work before their relationship. Mae finds some of her mother’s old photographs which seem to imply a romance with a man (Y’lan Noel) Mae didn’t know about. So many secrets, so many complications! Not exactly the right time to pursue a romantic spark, right?
Well, you obviously haven’t met LaKeith Stanfield. The magnetic actor plays a journalist assigned to cover Mae’s mother’s death. But, of course, he develops an attraction to Mae. And awkwardly asks her out, before sheepishly admitting that “in my mind, it wasn’t that forward, you know what I mean? It was more… smoother than that.” And Mae, despite all of her traumas and blockages regarding love, finds herself growing more and more invested in him.
Does that premise sound familiar? It should — it plays right into some classic tropes of romance films. And many elements of the trailer promise other familiar romance goalposts, including the goofy best friend (Lil Rel Howery) and a particularly moving line reading of “I would’ve gone after her” from Rob Morgan (Mudbound). However, Meghie’s treatment of these potentially cliche elements feels realer than most. Rawer than most. And more emotionally captivating than most. If you’re looking for a mainstream romance film that also possesses some independently-minded authenticity, The Photograph might be the most interesting development you’ve got.
Check out the trailer and official synopsis for The Photograph below, and plan your 2020 Valentine’s Day date night now. For more in Rae’s big moves, check out her recent HBO Max announcement.
On Valentine’s Day, Issa Rae (HBO’s Insecure, Little) and LaKeith Stanfield (FX’s Atlanta, Sorry to Bother You) connect in a romance where a woman must learn from the secrets in her mother’s past if she is to move forward and allow herself to love and be loved.
When famed photographer Christina Eames unexpectedly dies, she leaves her estranged daughter Mae Morton (Rae) hurt, angry and full of questions. When a photograph tucked away in a safe-deposit box is found, Mae finds herself on a journey delving into her mother’s early life and ignites a powerful, unexpected romance with a rising-star journalist, Michael Block (Stanfield).
From writer-director Stella Meghie (The Weekend, Jean of the Joneses) from her original screenplay comes a sweeping love story about forgiveness and finding the courage to seek the truth, no matter where it may lead you.