Director: Biyi Bandele
Writers: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (novel), Biyi Bandele (screenplay)
Staring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton, Anika Noni Rose and Onyeka Onwenu
Half of a Yellow Sun is a fantastic novel; so quite naturally an adaptation (any adaptation, in fact) was going to be a herculean task. There’s a little part of you that just begs that great books be left alone, but there’s an even bigger part that wishes that adaptations would simply pick and choose parts of the story rather than attempt to recreate the entire thing. In this case, Half of a Yellow Sun commits the sin of trying to tell the whole story and so fails to evoke any real depth as it simply glides over the story and races to the finish line.
While I am willing to skim over the fact that Chiwetel Ejiofor seemed to scream his way through the movie. Ugwu the village house boy who keeps chicken wings in his pant pockets and is barely learning to speak English spoke with an accent and generally was the eye candy of the movie; and Olaana who is described as having a “curvy, fleshy body…illogically pretty…” ends up scoring an A in the cup department. I cannot get over the flaws of the Kainene character.
For anyone who has read the book, one of the most striking characters is Kainene. She is portrayed as a headstrong woman with a dry sense of humor and a striking aloof personality. Her character failed to draw any real sentiment and it really seemed like Anika Noni Rose hadn’t fully grasped all that Kainene was supposed to represent. Each time she opened her mouth all I heard was “how’s the revolutionary?” For a character who I am in complete and total awe of, she ended up being one of the more forgettable characters in the movie.
Often, scenes which serve no point other than to relay a piece of background information continually appear and it is shocking that such experienced film makers failed to guide the writer/director away from such obvious pitfalls. In order to accommodate as many details as possible from the novel, including what appeared to be documentary scenes, many superfluous scenes lead only to confusion and rely on the audience either having read the novel or having in-depth knowledge of Nigeria’s history.
The film did have one or two stand out performances, majorly in “Mama” played by Onyeka Onwenu who is truly proving to be a veteran actress and Richards’ house boy, the nosy and pretentious Harrison, depicted by Jude Orhorha. In true Nigerian high drama fashion they gave us “scream and cringe” worthy moments with Mama taking the trophy for the best line of the night “I’m too old to die young from smoking”. Epicness!
All taken into consideration, this is the director’s first movie and it could be argued that he wasn’t comfortable with the pressures of time and of shooting out of sequence.
It is sad to be so ‘down’ on a movie that has its heart in the right place, and one can only hope, pray, fast and keep fingers crossed that Lupita and her crew do a much better job of bringing Chimanda’s “Americanah” to life.
But if only for the love of all things banned and a couple of stand-out moments in the movie it gets a Soda and Hotdog from us.
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Review by @onetivgirl