The Photograph Parent Guide
For a film trying to stuff two relationships into two hours, The Photograph often feels slow. Not contemplative, just slow.
Parent Movie Review
How do you choose between being with the one you love and following your dreams? Christina (Chanté Adams) is a gifted photographer, perfecting her skills in rural Louisiana. She wants to find fame in New York City, but she’s in love with Isaac (Rob Morgan), a local fisherman whose dreams begin and end with marrying her. Should she abandon her goals and stay with Isaac or should she try her luck in the Big Apple?
Thirty-five years later, Christina is dead of cancer. Her daughter, Mae (Issa Rae) meets a reporter, Michael (LaKeith Stanfield) whose work on another story led him to Christina’s photos. The two begin a relationship, just as Michael applies for a new job in London. Now Mae must decide if she’s going to follow her mother’s path or find her own way.
I love romantic dramas and was hoping The Photograph would deliver two love stories for the price of one. It almost does. The chemistry between Christina and Isaac is palpable and it’s easy to feel the emotional strain as both characters realize their dreams are incompatible. Mae and Michael’s relationship, however, stumbles through lots of awkward moments before it starts to gel. Issa Rae winningly portrays the guarded, vulnerable Mae and LaKeith Stanfield plays Michael with puppy dog eyes and a fair bit of verbal bumbling (which is a surprise in a man who makes his living with words). I kept waiting for the relationship to hit its groove, but it takes a while and relies on a steady diet of alcohol and passionate sex to smooth over the growing pains.
The sheer volume of alcohol consumed in The Photograph is going to raise a red flag for some parents. Christina and Isaac occasionally imbibe, but Mae and Michael drink whiskey, champagne, wine, or beer in almost every social event in the film as well as in their homes and that of Michael’s relatives. They don’t get obviously drunk, but the movie sends a message that alcohol is an indispensable part of social interaction. This production also features two steamy scenes of premarital sex, with couples shown undressing, and caressing and rolling atop one another in bed. There is no explicit nudity, but there are scenes of a woman’s bare back and a man’s bare chest. Parents will note that neither couple discusses contraception before engaging in sex. On the bright side, the movie has fewer than a dozen swear words and no violence.
While I am annoyed with the movie’s unnecessary sexual content, my overall attitude to The Photograph is ambivalence. For a film trying to stuff two story lines into two hours, it often feels slow. Not contemplative, just slow. And way too earnest. There are some laughs in this picture, mainly provided by Michael’s brother and his wife (played with charm by Lil Rey Howery and Teyonah Parris) but the story would have been lightened and lifted with more humor. As is, The Photograph feels a bit heavy and out of focus, with a relationship that comes across as tenuous and underdeveloped. Oddly enough, it’s not the relationships that stand out for me when I think of the film, but the glorious yellow sundress worn by Mae in Louisiana. It glows in the light and that’s the image that is going to stick in my mind when the relationships in this story have faded away. If only the romances were as memorable…Directed by Stella Meghie. Starring Issa Rae, LaKeith Stanfield, and Chelsea Peretti. Running time: 106 minutes. Theatrical release February 14, 2020. Updated February 14, 2020
Watch the trailer for The Photograph
Rating & Content Info
Why is The Photograph rated PG-13? The Photograph is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for sexuality and brief strong language.
Violence: None noted.
Sexual Content: Frequent passionate embraces and kisses between unmarried couples. Two scenes of sexual activity between unmarried couples which involve undressing (only bare backs are visible), passionate kissing, stroking, and lying on top of one another. A man mentions a past sexual relationship with an older woman with insatiable sexual desires.
Profanity: There are ten uses of profanity, including one sexual expletive, and three each of terms of deity, anatomical expressions, and mild profanities.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Main characters consume alcohol at almost every social event in the movie: receptions, dates, visiting family members, etc. A character briefly mentions past marijuana use.
Page last updated February 14, 2020
The Photograph Parents' Guide
Why do Christina and Mae make the choices they make? What would you do in their places?
What do you know about your parents’ early lives? Do you know about the difficult decisions they made or the challenges they have overcome?
Are you interested in learning about your ancestors or recording your family’s stories? Check out these links for help.
RootsTech: 7 Fantastic Storytelling Tools and Apps
FamilySearch: Using FamilySearch Apps to Record Oral Histories
FamilySearch: Preserving Family Memories: Real-Life Success Stories
FamilySearch: 52 Questions 52 Weeks
Loved this movie? Try these books…
In Mom & Me & Mom, acclaimed author Maya Angelou recounts the history of her fractured relationship with her mother.
When Jasmin Darznik finds a photograph of her mother marrying an unknown man, she is confused. In The Good Daughter: A Memoir of My Mother’s Hidden Life, Jasmin recounts what she learned about her mother’s first abusive marriage in Iran, and the ties that still bind her there.
Jung Chang’s Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China is a moving portrait of women who transmitted courage and strength through the generations.
The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother is James McBride’s powerfully moving account of his mother’s struggles to raise 12 biracial children in an often hostile world.
YA author Kit Pearson sends her protagonist on a time travelling journey in A Handful of Time. Going back to a turbulent summer in her mother’s life, Patricia is finally able to understand her mother.
Related home video titles:
A temporarily housebound photographer and his glamorous girlfriend get caught up in murder and peril in Hitchcock’s classic film, Rear Window.
A daughter begins to understand her mother by reading a scrapbook of her past in Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.
When they switch bodies, a mother and daughter finally develop some empathy for each other in Freaky Friday.