“The Photograph” draws heavily from the 1997 classic, “Love Jones.” Both films beautifully laced with the pensive and sentimental fullness of Jazz music with an emphasis on the potency of Black art. Though The Photograph makes a fair attempt, it does not capture the warmth of “Love Jones.”
It lacks familiarity and the main characters lack depth. Issa Rae’s acting as Mae left much to be desired and the chemistry between Mae and Michael, played by LaKeith Stanfield, felt a bit contrived. It was difficult to watch the film and see anything but Issa Rae and LaKeith Stanfield, instead of Mae and Michael. From a technical point of view, the film was shot with much care and detail. The shots of the blue skies of New Orleans and the rainy streets of NYC, evoked feelings of comfort and levity.
The most compelling parts of the film were not centered around Mae and Michael but existed in the story of Mae’s mother, Christina who is played by Chante Adams. Christina’s storyline and her past love Isaac, played by Y’lan Noel (young Isaac) and Robert Morgan (old Isaac), was absolutely captivating. Chante Adams’ acting was gripping, heart-wrenching, and undeniable. Adams and Robert Morgan essentially carried the film with subtle yet profoundly expressive acting.
In general, “The Photograph” is not a bad film. It just does not have the elusive nature of a “Love Jones,” despite its comparisons and parallels. The cinematic experience amplified the salience of the film, but if it were to be a straight to Netflix film it would not hurt the film any more than the film has hurt itself. With underdeveloped characters and storylines that lack true cohesion, it is a film that fails to explore its own potential richness. In an attempt to be complicated and multi-dimensional, the film overlooks the brightness of simplicity; a brightness the movie so sorely needed.