‘The Photograph’ Captures Inbalance of Love and Work

DeAndre Washington, Arts & Entertainment Editor

A picture is worth a thousand words that we may never say to those we love most. Stella Meghie creates a world where loving someone is the only option for Issa Rae and Lakeith Stanfield. Both characters play leading roles in Meghie’s romantic drama “The Photograph”; a film that builds current day love upon frames captured 30 years prior to present day events. 

Following the sudden death of her mother, Mae Morton, daughter of the famed photographer Christina Eames, out of frustration decides to understand why her mother focused more on her work as a photographer than communicating whether she had ever been loved throughout her storied career. While searching through the safe-deposit box her mother intended for her to have; Mae finds two letters and a photograph that captures a glimpse of what life was like for her mother Christina sometime around Mae’s age. 

Lakeith Stanfield plays Michael Block; a journalist for The Republic sent to Louisiana work on an article about the Louisiana Oil Spill meets Isaac Jefferson. During his interview with Jefferson, Block comes across the same photo of Christina that Mae finds atop of Isaac’s family photos. This photo of Christina prompts Michael to find the woman Isaac doesn’t hesitate at reminiscing about. 

The Photograph becomes what many recent black films have been. A story that loses its strength very early thus leading to losing that curiosity. While the movie is a beautiful example of black romance, the plot becomes clear within the first 20 minutes of the film. The relationship between Isaac and Mae is evident after having realized that her mother lost love once she left Louisiana. 

But what if the point wasn’t to create a plot twist for the audience? Stella Meghie crafts her story more around the message of the movie than she does in allowing the movie to extend further than it does. While the film is beautifully shot, it feels rushed to tell the audience to love someone long enough if you are able to do so.

Where the plot is lost, the character development helps give direction that maintains interest in the film. Watching both Michael and Isaac’s development as the film progresses given the loss of the women in their lives helps to drive the movie home. Stanfield approaches his character with a deeper depth to his already vast acting range that hasn’t been seen before. 

While Michael and Mae’s relationship doesn’t get the privilege to thrive as much as Isaac and Christina’s, the idea that it never would given the obsession of focusing more on your work long enough to be successful becomes clear indication of the intentional parallels between both couples. As much as we choose to work in order to be successful, there will come times where love needs that very same attention we tend to give more to our nine to five.