“My mother wasn’t very good at love. What if I’m just like her?” ponders Issa Rae’s character, Mae, in her new blockbuster film, “The Photograph.” She asks this question to her love interest, played by Lakeith Stanfield, on their first date. The love story, released on Valentine’s Day and directed by Stella Meghie, is an ode to Black love and the ways in which we relate to our parents. The story follows the budding relationships of Mae’s parents, Christina and Isaac, Mae and the writer Michael.
Opening up and letting people in was something Mae’s mother struggled with when it came to lovers like Isaac. Mae wondered if she herself was being exactly like her mother because she kept finding herself in and out of failed relationships — her most recent one ended when she declined her ex’s proposal. This similarity in habits between parent and child is something to which we can all relate. The movie poses the question: do we learn to love by watching our parents’ relationships? Now, philosophers and students of the attachment theory may believe so, but I don’t think Mae necessarily followed in her mother’s footsteps when it came to loving Michael. She was confused as to if she had to open herself to vulnerability on the first date. Should she be aloof? Closed off? With Michael, she fell head-first into a dramatic and poetic love story that matched the thrill and spontaneity of her parents’ own.
Of course, like all love stories, Michael and Mae’s and Isaac and Christina’s came with trials and tribulations. Christina left Isaac to pursue a photography career in New York — she wanted to support herself and not wait around for someone. Isaac never followed because he worried he couldn’t give Christina everything she wanted because she was always one step ahead. Michael ended up leaving New York to take a job with the Associated Press in London, breaking Mae’s heart as her newfound love was separated by a body of water,but their love lasted and prevailed. They were able to make things work and be together for the better.
The film was an amazing allegory to the beautiful and sacred love between not only Black people but also people in general. It showed how important it is to fight and nurture the love we find and the people in which we find it. The visuals were amazing and the acting was spot-on, a perfect breakout film for new director Stella Meghie.
Not to mention, the film had an impeccable accompanying soundtrack. The head and tail ends of the project are the most standout of the instrumentals: “Fade Away” by Lucky Daye and “Comfortable” by H.E.R. “Fade Away” is a beautiful ballad about the wistfulness of falling deeply in love with no brakes. “Comfortable” romanticizes the feeling of letting layers go in the midst of a relationship and being yourself fully. Each song perfectly encapsulates the feelings that can be felt while watching this cinematic masterpiece. So, go see it for yourself in theaters!