Half of a Yellow Sun (2014)

Drinking Game

Take a Drink: whenever differences between the Hausa and Igbo are mentioned

Take a Drink: every time someone has sex

Take a Drink: for mentions of sisterdom or twinhood

Take a Drink: for newsreel footage

Take a Drink: whenever Momma does what she wants

Take a Drink: for rice

Do a Shot: for the worst wedding ever

Community Review

How many beers do you recommend for this movie?
1 Beer! A Toast! Great Movie!2 Beers! Good Movie!3 Beers! Okay Movie!4 Beers! Mediocre Movie!5 Beers! Awful Movie!6-Pack! Bad movie! Do not be Sober!

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Movie Review

By: Henry J. Fromage (Four Beers) –

I haven’t done nearly as much reading in the last year or so as I should after getting my first tablet, unless you count pretty much every AVClub article, I guess… Oh, and I started reading Game of Thrones as well, so that’s pretty much swallowed the rest of my reading time.

game-of-thrones-books

I can see why Martin needs six years to write one of these bricks

One book I did read, and found to be simply excellent, epic and personal, with beautiful writing and character work, was Half of a Yellow Sun. Now we have the inevitable adaptation. The story follows Nigerian twin sisters Olanna (Thandie Newton) and Kainene (Anika Noni Rose) as they live, love, and eventually struggle to survive during the Nigerian Civil War and the short, meteoric existence of the Republic of Biafra.

A Toast

This film does do things quite well- establish a vibrant, realistic setting and act. The former is due to first-time director Biyi Bandele, a respected playwright and theater director moving into film, and really succeeding on the technical side. He has a nice handle on the scope of the project, and delivers a well-shot and beautifully scored (with a mix of classical and African themes) look at Africa, particularly 1960s Africa, that most audiences never get exposed to. He also has a surprisingly good handle on wartime action.

The second part is due to the cast, which includes Newton, Rose, newly minted Oscar nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor, the fast-rising (Star Wars, baby!) John Boyega, and J0seph Mawle.

Joseph+Mawle

What happens when you leave Jay Baruchel out in the sun too long.

All of them acquit themselves well, with Boyega in particular displaying a new, very different side from his badass turn in Attack the Block and Newton sinking her teeth into a role for the first time in seemingly forever.

Beer Two

I hate to be the “the novel’s so much better!” guy, but it is, and the main reason is that it has more room to properly develop a cast of characters this large while also orienting the reader in a largely unfamiliar place and historical period. The adaptation of the novel, though, whiffs on most of that. There’s simply too much going on to properly develop all of these characters in under two hours, and either some of the characters, or some of the extraneous plotting should’ve been sacrificed for the greater good.

half-of-a-yellow-sun

Like say, half the affairs… so many damn affairs!!!

Beer Three

When they do focus on certain characters over others, they pick the less interesting ones. Newton and Ejiofor are the biggest names in the cast, but their characters’ story was part of a balanced whole in the book, which made its revelations and tragedies that much more impactful. In the film, we lose track of the way more emotionally complex Kainene, or Boyega’s harrowing and morally ambiguous journey through the war as part of a group of child soldiers, so their roles in the climax don’t affect you nearly as strongly.

Beer Four

So, instead of the epic sweep of the novel, most of what is preserved is the melodrama. Frankly, sex is not a shortcut to character development. Finding out who is sleeping with who is only interesting when we care about the whos involved. Also annoying is the “what happened to them later” text over the credits, which positions this as a true story which it, well, totally isn’t. I don’t care that x little girl grows up to be a doctor, because x little girl is totally fake. So dumb.

Verdict

Half of a Yellow Sun boast some good acting and production values, but seriously, just go read the far, far superior book.

4Beers

About Henry J. Fromage

Movieboozer is a humor website and drinking games are intended for entertainment purposes only, please drink responsibly.

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