The Photograph - B-
Rated PG-13, 106 minutes
The stylish, slick new romantic drama "The Photograph" could easily be called "Easy on the Eyes" for its appealing leads, and while they do their best to carry the film, it tends to skim the surface and leaves you wanting more.
When famed photographer Christina Eames (Chante Adams) dies unexpectedly, she leaves her estranged daughter Mae, who is hurt, angry and full of questions. When Mae finds a photograph tucked away in a safe-deposit box, she soon finds herself delving into her mother's early life -- an investigation that leads to an unexpected romance with a rising journalist named Mike ("Knives' Out's" Lakeith Stanfield).
The modestly engaging but shallow "The Photograph" is written and directed by "Everything, Everything's" Stella Maghie, and there is one sure thing here: the camera loves both Rae and Stanfield, two actors whose stars are definitely rising to A-list and will easily get there with stellar material. "The Photograph" isn't quite it mainly because it heavily relies on excessive flashbacks, which gives the film's narrative some tenuous footing and loses some substance in the process.
While Rae and Stanfield easily and naturally handle the modern day romance, it's the flashbacks in "The Photograph" which are often more interesting, and Maghie's doesn't stay there long enough and leaves you wanting to know more about Mae's mysterious artist mother, who had trouble balancing romance, family and career, and the man she left behind, the handsome fisherman Isaac (Y'lan Noel, younger/"Stranger Things'" Rob Morgan older), who also shares a special connection with Mae.
One thing that helps "The Photograph" is having comedian Lil Rel Howery as Mike's brother for levity, and much like he did in "Get Out," he steals the scenes he's in, as well as providing some much needed honesty for Stanfield's character. Kelvin Harrison Jr. ("Waves") and Courtney B. Vance share a few key scenes as Mike's co-worker and Mae's stepfather, respectively.
There's the old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words, and the smooth, dreamy romance in "The Photograph" needs a few more, relying heavily on style over substance. The ending isn't altogether a big surprise, either, but should please those who are fans of this type of thing, with a couple of added (yet unrealistic) plot twists. After seeing "The Photograph" I do know one thing: expect to see a lot more of the handsome Rae and Stanfield, both of whom should have a starry future in movies.