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Sodas & Popcorn – Movie Review: Half Of A Yellow Sun

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Half of a Yellow Sun - June 2014 - BellaNaija.com 01

Director: Biyi Bandele
Writers: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (novel), Biyi Bandele (screenplay)
Staring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton, Anika Noni Rose and Onyeka Onwenu

View full list of cast and crew here

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.

Sodas & Popcorn Rating3So have you seen the movie? What did you think about it? Do let us know in the box below.
Visit www.sodasandpopcorn.com for more exciting reviews and movie related content.

Review by @onetivgirl

Hello there, we are Sodas & Popcorn. An award winning movie blog at the Nigerian Blog Awards. We review the movies released to Nigerian and International cinemas and give the trusted verdict on the movie to our readers.

39 Comments

  1. Screech

    August 6, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    While I agree with some of what you have said, mostly about Thandie Newton’s unsuitability to Olanna’s character, I have to say that Kainene was EVERYTHING I thought she would be. The devil-may-care attitude, her calmness in the face of drama, ballsy nature .. everything really. I thought Anika Noni Rose was brilliant in the role. Could hardly take my eyes off her.

    She, for me, was the star of the movie. Olanna was such a wimp! Not at all the way I envisioned her in the book.

    For Onyeka Onwenu, BRAVA!!! *throws roses on the stage*

    I would give it a 3.5 star out of 5.

    PS: What were the censor’s board on about? The nips, brutal killings, were still included after all.

  2. B

    August 6, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    I saw the movie at it’s premier and I loved it. Altho I know for sure that t

  3. JaY

    August 6, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    I don’t agree with you often but this time you’re spot on!
    I saw the movie last week after a few of people had told me that whilst it wasn’t a great war movie, it was a great love story. I was sooooooo disappointed and sad. I was so sad for what could have been such a moving and important film became just a melodramatic average movie that failed to even engage me besides a few comedic moments. There are so many things wrong with the film and it’s unforgivable given the $10mil budget. The producers should have chosen a more experienced director and even Chimamanda should have insisted. It’s such a shame because costume, cinematography and props were very good, it just suffered from a terrible screenplay and even worse directing.

  4. B

    August 6, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    I saw the movie at it’s premier and I loved it. Altho I know for sure that that the book will have been a masterpiece. (I nver quite got around to reading it). But I have to say, movie adaptations of great books will always fall short in comparison to the book (from Odyssey to The Notebook, Twilight, Harry Potter etc). It goes the same for HOAYS. I guess a writer’s imagination is more vivid than a movie director/producer’s.
    What’s to be done is simply enjoy the book and movie ‘mutually exclusively’ of each other. That said, I do agree. Some times, even I don’t want my favorite book adapted to a movie

    • bunmi

      August 6, 2014 at 2:45 pm

      this is best comment ever.

    • Igbeyinadun

      August 6, 2014 at 4:05 pm

      Agree with you totally!

    • Kay

      August 6, 2014 at 10:06 pm

      twilight is a great book? please rebuke that IJN #cozagrace

  5. jd

    August 6, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    if you have read the book, you’ll know that the movie was nothing close. i was disappointed. i kept waiting for somthing better to come up and then before i knew it the movie was over. it was obviously rushed at the end, not detailed at all. for me Oyenka Onwenu was most fantasctic at her role. Ugwu was too cool to be Ugwu. i just feel they shouldnt have bothered making the movie cos the book is to good to be short told!

  6. SASSYCASSIE

    August 6, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    the movie was a huge dissapointment. biyi needs to stick to writing plays and leave film writing and directing to the folks who know. That said, Anika rose, onyeka onwenu and gloria anozie slayed!

  7. Berry Dakara

    August 6, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    “I’m too old to die young from smoking”

    BEST LINE in the whole film!

  8. Sweet bundles birth and more services

    August 6, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    Good performances by Anika N. Rose, john Boyega and Onyeka Onwenu. Definitely more love story vs. war movie. Good baseline to get people, particularly younger ones interested in talking & hearing about the Biafran war and times.

  9. oj

    August 6, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    the movie can never be as good as the book. learnt that lesson from Harry Porter. While people were hailing the movie, i kept finding faults.

  10. mimi

    August 6, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    I watched the movie last week. Without reading the book, the movie had its pitfalls. So what made Chiwetel a revolutionary? He wasn’t even shown at work? The movie depended too much on a pre-requisite of reading the book.

  11. mimi

    August 6, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    Yes and it seemed more like a love story during the biafran war and made the war more like a setting. Good acting but the director should have subjected it to a higher degree of critical evaluation

  12. Ojie

    August 6, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    I never read the book and do not really plan to. So, solely from the point of view of the film…

    Strengths..
    1. Performances were all round amazing. Thandie wonderfully carried the film. She really gave life to Olana and showed how a woman sticks to her man “in sickness and in health for richer or for poorer”. Anika’s Kainene always always made me happy. Her accent was tip-top, her line delivery very sharp. These two actresses clearly understand the concept of creating a character. Joseph was the one who really showed what it was to love a woman so much it hurts. I would say the film was wonderfully cast with the right actors in the right roles, which is always a deal-breaker.

    2. Art Direction was splendid. In my opinion, the best part of the film, I was completely amazed that those beautiful sets came from within Nigeria.

    3. Cinematography was lush and sweet, despite the sad story, showcased the country in all its riches.

    4. Score was absolutely breathtaking. It really carried the emotion of the film.

    Weaknesses
    4. Scene progression were not properly fleshed out. In some scenes, I found myself wondering what was going on because there was no flow from the previous scene, which I might just chuck to in-experience on Biyi’s part.

    5. Characters were not properly fleshed out. So much was lost in the air and I suppose we were meant to assume some stuff, which completely defeats the whole ‘visual aspect’ of a film. I wish John’s character was more fleshed out, with him having much more to do in the plot. Yes, he was good in his scenes, but I would have liked to see him more. Chiewetel, good as always, but his character too suffered from not being adequately fleshed out. I feel they needed to show him much more as a revolutionary. Also, I was waiting for a major show-down between Kainene and Odenigbo, which despite all Kainene’s talk, we did not get.

    Ojie’s thoughts………
    All in all, despite its flaws, I must say I loved it. I appreciated so so much of how they gave a vivid picture of the Biafra story, which I must admit other than the name ‘Biafra’, I knew nothing. The characters stayed with me for so long, I am considering going to see it again.

    My only hope is ‘Half Of A Yellow Sun’ can be a model for the new generation of Nigerian film-makers who wish to tell stories, but with quality! Especially in areas of Nigeria’s history. Please, we need some biopics. Let us know our history!

  13. Changing Faces

    August 6, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    We all agree that movies are never as good as the books adapted but this movie just didn’t cut it! It tried to tell too many stories and ended up telling none! Just a caricature of that fantastic book. The character development was just 0. Apart from a few, you left still not knowing what most characters were about. I doubt if most of them even read the book. Genevieve brought nothing, very lacklustre performance. Even the almighty Chiwetel didn’t impress.. Onyeka, Anika, Gloria Young were really good. I even liked Thandie. This book should have been a series; like they did with things fall apart.

  14. Igbeyinadun

    August 6, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    hmm… I kind of agree with you in regards to it being a series like Things Fall Apart. it would have given them for than enough time to tell the story properly.

  15. Chichi

    August 6, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    Ive read the book, totally loved it! but watching the movie yesterday was almost worse than watching paint dry!.. No connection between scenes et al. Was really disappointed

  16. Fisayo

    August 6, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    I think the movie was a very good one. Yes some flaws when compared with the book, but i really think it was a good movie.

  17. Chica

    August 6, 2014 at 5:38 pm

    I haven’t read the book but I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. One of the best movies i’ve seen in the cinemas lately… I know, movies nowadays seem to bore me. And the set and wardrobe were on point. My favs are Ugwu and mama.
    Let me not say more other than ‘let’s live together’

  18. adetola

    August 6, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    I was very very disappointed! Extremely disappointed! That book is a masterpiece and for it to be descrecated like that in the name of a film??? I am surprised Chimamanda allowed this…

  19. Myne Whitman

    August 6, 2014 at 7:51 pm

    I did not write a review though I watched it the first day it came online. Let’s just say it left a lot for those of us coming with high expectations. Compared to Nollywood, or if one hasn’t read the book, then I guess it’s an OK movie.

  20. amanda

    August 6, 2014 at 8:00 pm

    When I first read the book, I was there with them felt everything. The movie was lack lustre. Anika Noni Rose gave the best performance. There was no depth whatsoever to the movie. No proper mention of their background, the mother only pops in. Her hausa ex boyfriend wasn’t mentioned. Kainene too pretty. *sigh*

    I think I’m ready for another Chimamanda book

  21. barry

    August 6, 2014 at 8:12 pm

    Am yet to see d movie but ve read book.

  22. Miss Bonnie

    August 6, 2014 at 9:26 pm

    The movie was horrible. apart for the great visual effects and everything.. it did NO JUSTICE to the book. I felt like crying when i watched it .. I was so sad. Even the Harry Potter movies did better . Hopefully Chimamanda will learn .. When you finally decide to turn Purple Hibiscus into a movie, please do it right !

  23. nene

    August 7, 2014 at 12:21 am

    i don’t think these producers will recoup the money. personally, i don’t like “history” films, except schindler’s list, which i watched because everyone was talking about it, and it was boring for me. i won’t be watching this movie based on the comments here, though i haven’t also read the book, but i’ll pass.

  24. Someone

    August 7, 2014 at 1:11 am

    “What do you think accounts for success of the whiteman’s mission in Africa?
    Perhaps you should first account for the failure of the blackman to curb the whiteman’s mission.”
    The issue with war is no one knows who the casualty will be and when it will end. Say yes to peace and love.

  25. iba

    August 7, 2014 at 2:02 am

    Now i would not want to watch the film with this lack lustre review. Besides having read the book it appears the film is a let down. #sadface

  26. BlueEyed

    August 7, 2014 at 3:48 am

    Before I watched the movie I had to read the reviews online (was already critical before I watched d first scene)and a lot of them had a few similar thoughts to this review, now bear in mind that these reviewers have no prior knowledge of what the nigerian movie industry looks like, however the international purpose the movie was meant to serve. I actually loved the movie coming from the POV dat a brilliantly executed nigerian movie is out there..altho I hv read the book which I think is a fantastic novel, I believe the movie is a well thought out adaptation

  27. BC

    August 7, 2014 at 4:48 am

    Thank God someone finally said it. Anika Noni Rose was the weakest link in this movie. Her lackluster performance was all I could think of when I walked out of the small movie theatre 2 months ago. I mean I was walking down the streets of Manhattan Vlogging in my head about her inability to fully grasp Kainene’s character. I had had such high hopes having seen her performance in For Colored Girls. I was tripping over myself asking how she could have got it so wrong? Was it the British accent she had to put onto play an upper class Nigerian woman educated in the UK, filming in Calabar, all the while suppressing your own identity as Black American? Was it all to much? Did she ever “see” who Kainene was? Had she ever been around Africans before this? Thandie and Chiwetel clearly had. Oh I was disappointed. The film had its pluses of course but some of the flaws really stuck out.

  28. Olori Tari

    August 7, 2014 at 7:02 am

    “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”.

    I’m even more afraid about Lupita’s adaptation of Americanah than this one I’m going to watch this weekend. I have seen Lupita act and I am still wondering what role she can even fit in ? Nothing at all, if you ask me. And I’m so very curious as to the cast she plans to use, especially Ifemelu and Obinze (actually, Ifemelu alone). Might fall down in the cinema, if Ifemelu isn’t portrayed oh so well. Asin, I hold that lady dear to my heart… to me she is everything and more, I hardly watch nolywood if it’s not the talk of the town and if it’s not Funke Akindele, so I can’t even recommend anybody for that role. But Lupita pleaseeeeeeee use a typical Nigeian actress. After purple Hibiscus, Americanah is my sh! T.

    • BC

      August 7, 2014 at 1:58 pm

      I think Dorcas Shola Fapson will make a fantastic Ifemelu. Ifem has a naija swag that Lupita I know cannot act out. DSF would have been perfect. Yep I just don’t see Lupita in that role. Damn political correctness.

  29. Eloho

    August 7, 2014 at 10:54 am

    So bottom-line; from comments – don’t read the book before watching the movie – i will see this movie this weekend then. Lucky me, i haven’t read the book. I will afterwards 🙂

  30. Person

    August 8, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    I have neither seen the movie nor read the book. I think I’ll order and read the book first.

    Re Americanah, Lupita had better not think of acting Ifemelu. That’d just kill the book.

  31. jasper

    August 13, 2014 at 7:12 pm

    the much heard about movie was not so impressive as i expected. I think it was rather too expensively executed. the cast was what impressed me becos the story is not so fantastic like Ije, onyeozi etc but overall it was a huge attempt to develop movie industry in africa. Weldone.

  32. Michael

    September 8, 2014 at 11:35 am

    Complete trash. The most meaningless movie I have watched in years. What did it portray? I’m not even sure. Was it a way to remind Igbos (by the way I am Igbo) of their long forgotten hardships, or just another way to portray sexual promiscuity and irresponsibility as a norm? Nonsense!

  33. kemi

    October 14, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    i understand your point of view. put i will advice you to read the book.words cannot express how amazing it is. it captures the love angle and most importantly the war and historical angle. as for the movie, great setting, good costume, nice cinematography. but it is deficient in terms of characters flaws, flat characters, and so many more i don’t have to mention. but read the book.

  34. ann

    October 7, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    onetivgirl, all ur favourite actors were all mine as well. The three u mentioned brought life to the story. I hope my comment will help.the producers of half of a yellow sun put some serious work in it.most of the props were on spot.none the less go back over 1. The leads hair style. braids stand out and make the whole movie have a contemporary feel. Hot comb could have been portrayed with perms. Or thread ties or better still kinky hair would do. 2. there was a
    tyled borehole wall in onyeka onwenu’s day scene and a blocked form story building with long span roofing sheetservices. 3. Classes were in church yards. 4. Not enough afro hair looks. 5.the elitist would have ball room dance in reception and a lot of high life. 6. I reserve my comment about the wedding dress. 7. I’ve just not seen that in any old school picture. 8.no
    matter my criticism, I’d never be able to do a film as good as urs in this country. So take my comments if you feel like. If u don’t, kudos!

  35. ann

    October 7, 2015 at 5:29 pm

    Anika N. Rose, john Boyega and Onyeka Onwenu. My best. Next time the director should employ three Nigerian assistant directors and even more casting director. Nigerians have called the three best performances in almost one voice. This means there is something we see that the director isn’t.he would definitely need a Nigerian eye.

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