Another Young Couple captures moments of intimacy and honesty in the life of the newlyweds Essence and Jihaari Harden-Terry in Los Angeles. Shot by the acclaimed US director Barry Jenkins on a single day in 2017, the footage was originally meant to serve as a test for his feature If Beale Street Could Talk (2018), including how a new camera would ‘affect intimate portraiture within lived spaces… in particular the faces and spaces of Black folk.’ Jenkins edited and then released the project online as a short documentary some six years later, in part as a spiritual sequel to his earlier work A Young Couple (2009).
Given its origins as test footage, the resulting film is stunningly refined and accomplished. Moving from room to room in Essence and Jihaari’s apartment, Jenkins explores the distinct contours of the couple’s relationship via thoughtful questions and artful production. Each new verbal and visual detail seems to reveal something small yet worthwhile about their lives together, which, accumulating throughout, build a rich and vibrant portrait. The camera lingers on the colourful artworks, plants, books and bikes that dot their walls. When Jihaari drops D’Angelo’s ‘Sugah Daddy’ on their record player, a dance party breaks out in the living room. They giggle together tenderly when they recall how Jihaari proposed with a note in bed, which Essence then reads aloud with a warm smile.
That this simple premise feels so compelling, and never saccharine, is a credit to the filmmaking team’s talents and the couple’s easy charms. In the world of storytelling, love and romance tend to be mined for pain and conflict. So there’s something refreshing, and almost playfully subversive, about capturing a marriage that, according to Essence, is ‘hard work and compromise’ but also ‘endless joy’. And, beyond the scope of his subjects’ lives, Jenkins’s film offers a subtle meditation on how we create our identities through the spaces we occupy, and especially the people we choose to surround ourselves with.
Written by Adam D’Arpino
Director: Barry Jenkins
Cinematographer: James Laxton
Editor: Israel Vasquez