Half of a Yellow Sun (2 stars)

Half of a Yellow Sun

The adaptation Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's novel is beautiful and well-acted but lacks depth

This adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s prize-winning novel comes unstuck in the same way as many literary adaptations before it, feeling too often like a story that is just skimming the surfaces of its characters and plot-lines, never digging into a specific line of enquiry. Despite strong performances and plenty of incident, writer and director Biyi Bandele fails to establish the narrative’s wider national and political context, and the film is ultimately insubstantial as a result.

The story centres on sisters Olanna (Thandie Newton) and Kainene (Anika Noni Rose), educated young women in 60s Nigeria, attempting to assert their independence just as their nation seeks to do the same. Olanna moves in with her academic boyfriend Odenigbo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a wannabe revolutionary who hosts nights of political discussion, while Kainene takes on the running of their father’s business and marries British diplomat Richard (Joseph Mawle). But the sisters are first split apart by a series of betrayals, then civil war overtakes the nation and their lives are irreversibly changed.

Shot on location in Nigeria, the film looks as beautiful as its cast, and Bandele clearly has an eye for a well-crafted shot: in several extended sequences the camera moves through walls and floors in a pleasingly fluid manner. But his decision to regularly cut to archive newsreel to explain the national situation has a conversely crippling effect on the film’s flow, while also failing to convey the key issues at stake for Nigeria. Against this blurry backdrop, the characters’ various affairs and confrontations develop a soapy quality, an impression furthered by the film’s galloping pace. The drama gains some weight in the film’s latter, war-torn stages, but is finally weakened by an abrupt, dissatisfying ending.

Limited release from Fri 11 Apr.

Half of a Yellow Sun Official UK Trailer (2014) - Chiwetel Ejiofor Movie HD

Half of a Yellow Sun

  • 2 stars
  • 2013
  • Nigeria/UK
  • 1h 51min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Biyi Bandele
  • Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton, Anika Noni Rose
  • UK release: 11 April 2014

The story of two sisters in 60s Nigeria, Olanna (Newton) and Kainene (Rose), attempting to assert their independence as their nation seeks to do the same. The adaptation of Adichie's novel looks beautiful but is crippled by Bandele's use of archival footage to explain the situation, which kills the narrative flow and…


1. a Craig9 Apr 2014, 9:26pm Report

NOT to mention that the casting of Thandie Newton as Olanna is possible the worst casting job in the history of film. If you have read the book she is as physically far from her character as possible, aside from being "a black woman" and is totally unbelievable as a Nigerian woman who was raised in Nigera--however great her acting may be.

And maybe this is just my opinon, but the Olanna character is considered extremely beautiful by everyone she crosses paths with. Is Ms. Newton anywhere near that level of attractiveness?

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