Half of A Yellow Sun: Movie Review
Cast: Chiwetel Eijofor, Thandie Newton, John Boyega
Director: Biyi Bandele
Based on the novel by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the story of Half Of A Yellow Sun concentrates on four people trying to live their lives during the Nigerian war of 1967-1970.
The film focuses on two sisters, Olanna (Newton) and Kainene as they are caught up in the conflict. Olanna's move in with her professor lover (played by 12 Years A Slave star Chiwetel Eijofor) brings about repercussions that none of them could have expected as the explosions of the coup outside match the emotional bombs going off at home.
Half of A Yellow Sun is one of those movies that's earnest in intentions, expertly well crafted, but feels occasionally aloof in its execution.
Using archive newsreel footage to serve as exposition for what's going on around them, Bandele chooses to let the people live in the moment rather than spend time setting the scene. The resulting shocks therefore feel a little calculated and serve to punctuate the narrative rather than help it along - a wedding is interrupted by shelling bringing horror into what should be a happy moment.
As the melodrama increases, there's the feeling that none of the characters are eminently likeable or leave you feel you should support them as the horrors of civil war come closer to home; it's a curious feeling and one that's more about how unlikeable people deal with difficult circumstances, but it does leave you wondering about its resolution. Talking of which, an out of left field end jars a little as it bookends the events in the Nigerian conflict.
Heartfelt, earnest and at times, a little slow to progress, Half of a Yellow Sun feels simply like a series of mounting tensions that are punctuated by little to no resonance - each character's motivations for their behaviour are too OTT to leave you caring - and for a film where the horrors of war match the horrors of home, it's a queasy unsatisfying mix.