When Nigerians both home and abroad joined Chimamanda Adichie and the production crew to speak vehemently against Nigerian government’s reluctance to approve Half of a Yellow Sun for screening in Nigerian cinemas, we felt the government was preventing us from seeing one of the country’s most acclaimed movies.
But when the movie was finally approved for screening, we heaved a sigh of relief and went en masse to the various cinemas to watch the much talked about movie.
While queuing to enter the cinema hall, I remembered my theory on overhyped movies – they often fail to live up to expectations.
“But the movie got 6.1/10 rating on Internet Movie Database and 51% on Rotten Tomatoes,” I told myself, adding if the rating is anything to go by, the movie should be okay enough and way beyond the levels of regular Nollywood movies.
I wasn’t the only one with the mindset considering the massive turnout on the day the movie premiered which recorded several sold out shows across Nigeria.
When the lights went off and the screen came on, many movie goers in the room were anxious and expecting to be blown away by the incredible movie that had gotten impressive international acclaims backed by an outstanding cast. But the first scene alone was the first indication that could get any movie critic disappointed. Several other scenes also showed the director and producer got several things wrong with the movie. There and then I knew why the foreign critics that commended the movie couldn’t identify the numerous flaws therein.
The movie was set in 1960 just before Nigeria got her independence but the lighting, clothes, jewelleries and several others were screaming 2014. Who does that in the first scene?
For the cast, Chiwetel Ejiofor (Odenigbo) tried his best although I felt he didn’t perfectly portray the character well enough. Furthermore, following his character’s behaviours throughout the movie without listening to the dialogue could be confusing because at one end he was being portrayed as someone who would not allow his love, Olanna (played by Thandie Newton), to be put in harm’s way but his insistence on supporting the war and not leaving when Olanna’s family was willing to sponsor their flea out of the country presented him to be selfish, stubborn and proud.
He was alcoholic and could sleep with the house girl that was brought from the village within one night and less than 12 hours that his wife left on an urgent visit out of town. He also left his mum back home to die.
How could a guy like that be portrayed as a lover? I’m a better lover than Olanna.
The production team also failed to realise that the Ox fan in Olanna’s room was a very recent model that became available about 5 years ago, on a road scene, they also unknowingly showed what looked like a MTN-branded kiosk
Richard played by Joseph Mawle was also another boring character. Yea, it’s true some Nigerian girls love white guys- definitely not Richard as portrayed by Mawle. He wasn’t sharp, not wealthier than Kainene (played by Tony award winner Anika Noni Rose) and wouldn’t be that good in bed or smart enough to sleep with twin sisters.
Best parts of the movie
The best part for many guys (and some ladies) would be Thandie Newton’s boobs. She came out of the bath tub fully naked and her nipples hard erect. Her legs were well shaven and as she made some movement, her boobs bounced. There was absolute silence in the cinema hall as everyone watched the sex scene unfold. It wasn’t the best that I’ve seen because Chiwetel wasn’t the right guy for that, but it was good enough for the movie.
The airport shooting scene was also horrific but cinematically awesome thanks to the brutality of Captain Dutse played by Hakeem Kae-Kazim. On the other side, Odenigbo’s live-in house help, Ugwu played by John Boyega brought some comic relief with his efficiency at cooking rice and watching his boss have sex with the house girl.
But for me, the most commendable acting in the movie wasn’t by the Hollywood celebrities (so many of them), it was by Nigeria’s songstress, Onyeka Onwenu, who played the role of Mama – Odenigbo’s mother, in the movie.
I was amazed at how easy it was for her to transform from a professional and iconic musician to an actor outperforming Oscar and Tony awards-nominated Hollywood celebrities in the movie. My favorite line in the movie was when she said “I’m too old to die young” in response to the advise against smoking.
I was expecting the censor board would have compelled the director to cut out the violent scenes in the movie but they weren’t so I was wondering why it failed to allow it to be shown in the first place. But truth be told, I don’t see Half of a Yellow Sun as a love story, instead, it was more or less an attempt to show the world what the Igbos went through during the civil war through the eyes of Odenigbo, his wife and people around them.
The love aspect of the movie was marred with infidelity, alcoholism, stubbornness, heartless, disappointment and intolerance. How the movie ended was also ridiculous with Kainene forever missing and unaccounted for. The Nigerian military won and all the couples went through was in futility. That is not how love stories end – only Titanic successfully had an understandable tragic end yet Leonardo DiCaprio is yet to win an Oscar award.
What the production team failed to understand was they pitched Half of a Yellow Sun as a love story and lovers should be expected to come out to watch it. Instead of the usual love niche, what we saw was desperation to do everything – action, sex, dialogue, history, modern, comedy, horror and several others. Nothing prepared the viewers for the horrors therein and the cliffhanger at the end of the movie didn’t take the burden off either.
Although viewers were happy when the movie started playing, no one clapped at the end. No couple hugged, we only shrugged. That’s not how love stories end.