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DVD Review – Half Of A Yellow Sun

2 min read

Half Of A Yellow Sun marks the directorial debut of Biyi Bandele, who expertly weaves the tale of two sisters, and the men they love, against the backdrop of war in an adaption of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichies’ novel of the same name. Set in 1960’s Nigeria, sisters Olanna and Kainene (played to perfection by Thandie Newton and Anika Noni Rose respectively) must deal with the turmoils of not only a violent rebellion, but also the many ups and downs of enduring love.

half of a yellow sun dvdThe first half of the film starts off very slowly, feeling more like a melodramatic soap opera then romantic drama. Olanna and her boyfriend Odenigbo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) are madly in love, until he cheats on her with his mothers’ maid, and impregnates her in the process. On the flip side, Kainene and her British lover Richard (Joseph Mawle) are in a pretty stable relationship, until Richard cheats on her with her sister: Olanna. All this happens within the first hour without a hint of the violence and massacre to come. Thankfully, the latter half of the film is what really brings everything together and saves the film from becoming a clichéd telenovela, and each character really comes into their own, dealing with the issues war brings to the table.

Thandie Newton and Anika Noni Rose are the real standouts in the film, each bringing charisma and magnetism to their characters in such a way that you were forced to watch them revel in every scene they were in. The scenes they shared together were a particular delight, and their exchanges were ripe with chemistry. It doesn’t hurt that Newton had a rock solid partner in the form of Ejiofor, fresh off his Oscar nomination for 12 Years A Slave, as the radical ‘revolutionary’ Odenigo, who you grow to love as the film progresses. It’s a shame that the beginning of the film wasted such talents on useless self-involved drama, instead of the much larger issues of famine and death and the emotional and physical turmoil they bring.

Visually speaking, there are many moments of raw violence, a nod to the previously untold brutality that occurred in war torn Nigeria during the 1960’s. Although sometimes shocking and uncomfortable to watch, it’s refreshing to have a director not shy away from the horrors that occurred during that period. Archive footage is used as a narrative plot and reminder that what you’re watching, although dramatized, did in fact happen.

Historically, Half Of A Yellow Sun is an important film for the very fact it is one of only a few to retell the tragedy of the rebellion in Nigeria. And although it is far from being a perfect film, its rawness keeps you enthralled until the very end.