‘Pho­to­graph’ a wel­come snap­shot of ro­mance


I don’t know if Cana­dian in­die film­maker Stella Meghie in­tended to write a knock­off of a Ni­cholas Sparks ro­mance when she started the screen­play for “The Pho­to­graph.” But that is cer­tainly what she ended up with.

In the film, Issa Rae of HBO’s “In­se­cure” plays Mae Mor­ton, a mu­seum cu­ra­tor and the daugh­ter of a re­cently de­ceased pho­tog­ra­pher named Christina Eames (a brood­ing Chante Adams). Orig­i­nally, Christina was from Pointe a la Hache, La., and the film cuts back and forth be­tween scenes set in the 1980s, when Christina was a young bud­ding shut­ter­bug and scenes set nearer to the present day, when Mae meets Michael Block (LaKeith Stan­field), a jour­nal­ist work­ing on a story about Mae’s mother.

Michael shut­tles back and forth be­tween New York City, where he and Mae work, and Pointe a la Hache, where fish­er­man Isaac Jefferson (Y’lan Noel young, Rob Mor­gan older) lives. Isaac had a love af­fair with Christina be­fore she left for New York City and he stayed be­hind.

Mae and Michael have not been lucky in love. She pushes people away. He is a com­mit­ment-phobe. But cue up the Al Green, and the prover­bial sparks fly when they meet at an event hosted by the mu­seum, where Mae works with her co-worker Rachel (a spunky Jas­mine Cephas Jones).

Like all ro­mances, “The Pho­to­graph” has its chance and not-so chance en­coun­ters, ban­ter that runs the gamut from su­per­fi­cial to pen­e­trat­ing, mo­ments when sex­ual at­trac­tion rears it head and lip gloss: the whole dance of courtship. But it can all seem out of step un­less the leads have chem­istry, and Rae and Stan­field have it, and the film has a nice, lowkey, jazzy vibe.

You may re­mem­ber Stan­field from “Get Out” or as Darius on TV’s “At­lanta.” Mae may seem like just an­other man­i­fes­ta­tion of Issa Dee, the char­ac­ter Rae plays on “In­se­cure.” But that’s a good thing. Rae co-cre­ated

“In­se­cure” and writes episodes as well as stars. It re­turns to HBO in April. Lil Rel How­ery is an as­set in “The Pho­to­graph” as Michael’s wise-cracking brother Kyle. That is the al­ways wel­come Court­ney B. Vance as the man who raised Mae with Christina and gives Mae in­for­ma­tion and ad­vice in a few key scenes.

(“The Pho­to­graph” con­tains pro­fan­ity and sex­u­ally sug­ges­tive scenes.)

NEG­A­TIVE IM­AGE: Mae Mor­ton (Issa Rae) in­spects im­ages on a light­box in ‘The Pho­to­graph.’

HISTORY LES­SON: Be­fore she left her na­tive Louisiana, Isaac (Y’lan Noel, left) and Christina (Chante Adams) were a cou­ple.

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