Love, and its expressions, are not always grand or over the top. Sometimes a single photograph can encompass all the love and passion between two people. That’s the type of story that’s depicted in “The Photograph,” a new film directed by Will Packer and written by Stella Meghie.

The film tells the story of two couples separated by time but bound by blood. One in the past and one in the present.

Mae Morton (Issa Rae) is a museum curator who is freshly mourning the death of her mother Christine (Chante Adams). Simultaneously, a writer named Michael (LaKeith Stanfield) is doing a posthumous article on Christine’s personal life and career. Through his research, he meets Mae and sparks fly between them as they both rebound from relationships.

Throughout the film, as Michael continues his research and gets closer to Mae, more is revealed about Christine, a fledgling photographer, and her boyfriend Issac (Y’lan Noel), a small town fisherman content with his simple life.

Christine dreams of escaping their small Louisiana town and moving to New York City to pursue her dreams. Eventually, with a “nudge” from her mother, she leaves her family, friends, and Isaac for New York. Years and decades pass and both live lives of regret, too proud to reconnect and explore what might have been.

Though, the film really should’ve focused on Christine and Isaac. This couple was highly relatable and earthy, a reminder of a time before social media, dating apps, and ghosting, when love and life were as simple as rural Louisiana.

The chemistry in this couple was believable and flowed effortlessly, only because Chante and Y’lan are dynamic in their portrayals. Mae and Michael, however, were more awkward.

Issac’s charm and love for Christine pushed through in a way that Michael could never convey. And it’s easy to see why Christine fell in love with him, and why it was so painful for her to move on with her life without him.

When Mae gives Michael an old photograph of Isaac, he travels to Louisiana to track him down for an interview. And Michael learns that Issac never stopped Christine and learns the toll time and distance can take on two people who are seemingly meant to be.

Meanwhile, Mae, who grew up feeling distant and unloved by her mother, receives two letters left to her–one explaining her love story with Isaac, and the other addressed to her father.

Mae and Michael run into their own pitfalls when the latter gets a new job in London, and Mae is not sure how they can make their increasingly complicated courtship work out while learning from Christine and Isaac’s mistakes.

However, through learning more about her Christine, Mae has the opportunity to reconnect and learn from her late-mother by being better at love than she was, and she takes it.

Ultimately, “The Photograph” is a cautionary tale, depicting how to ward off those “generational curses.” It shows Black Love in a true, non-traumatizing form.

Shakespeare said it best in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “the course of true love never did run smooth.”

(Photo: Universal Pictures)

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