Review: Issa Rae, LaKeith Stanfield come into focus in 'The Photograph'

Romance blossoms between the two stars in Stella Meghie's love story

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

Issa Rae and LaKeith Stanfield simmer on screen together in "The Photograph." Sign them up for another movie right now, it doesn't have to be a sequel, it can be anything. They're a duo worth investing in and following.

"The Photograph" could use even more of them. This romance tells a multi-generational story about love, regret and the importance of giving voice to one's feelings, however messy or inconvenient it may render a situation. The problem is, Rae and Stanfield are so good together that when they're not on screen, you wish they were. That's how magnetic they are.

LaKeith Stanfield and Issa Rae in "The Photograph."

Stanfield ("Knives Out," TV's "Atlanta"), who's never been more laid back or charming, plays Michael. He's a New York reporter who, on assignment in Louisiana, comes across a man with a photograph of his long lost love. 

Rae (HBO's "Insecure") is Mae, the daughter of the woman in the photograph. Michael, who's just coming off a breakup, meets up with Mae at the museum in Queens where she works to discuss the photo. There are immediate sparks but the two take it slow, and a first date finds them discussing the finer points of Kanye West, Drake and Kendrick Lamar.

Writer-director Stella Meghie lets Michael and Mae feel each other out slowly, even as the characters fight back their natural attraction, which is obvious to all. 

It's the frequent cutaways and flashbacks to the story of the photo that slow the story. Eventually, the plotline comes around with a payoff that ties into the decisions we make today and how they affect our future. But too often it feels like extra padding on a story that doesn't need it.

Lil Rel Howery and Jasmine Cephas Jones ("Mrs. Fletcher," Broadway's "Hamilton") help round out a strong cast as Michael's brother and Mae's friend, respectively. "The Photograph" can be a bit off center at times, but once it finds its focus, it's lovely to watch it develop.


'The Photograph'


Rated PG-13: for sexuality and brief strong language

Running time: 106 minutes