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Film Review: Half of a Yellow Sun


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Based on the book of the same name, Half of a Yellow Sun is a love story set against the backdrop of the Nigerian Civil War. However, despite starring BAFTA winners Thandie Newton and Chiwetel Ejifor and director Biyi Bandele having the best intentions for his debut, it falls sadly short.

Olanna (Newton) is the daughter of a wealthy businessman in Nigeria who decides to shun the opportunity to take over her father’s business in order to live with her new lover, revolutionary professor Odenigbo (Ejifor).

Unfortunately we are never told how they met, and the failure to create any depth, backstory or connection with the characters is a continual problem – between Olanna and Odenigbo, there doesn’t appear to be anything more than a physical attraction.   

Another problem is that the movie, split into two halves, doesn’t flow particularly well. The first half is largely flawed in its attempts to build depth in the relationship, due to the lack of communication between the two leads.

With the Nigerian Civil War as context, as the story develops we are largely left in the dark as to what is really happening. With vague statements and conversations from the main characters and original BBC footage, the audience is expected to know quite a lot about the war in order to understand the impending threat the characters face. Without previous knowledge, what is going on is unclear.

Despite the Civil War being in full swing the film never addresses it fully. The fact that all the characters are finically stable and have no worries before the war also makes it difficult to sympathise with them,  as the war tore part a country and affected most those who had very little to begin.

Generally this movies flat-lines with its lack of depth and its out of touch approach, whilst also failing to connect the horrors of war with the universal fear we all have of losing our loved ones. Half of a Yellow Sun seems to rest on its source material; it expects you to have read the book already - and if you haven’t it fails to successfully translate.

Half of a Yellow Sun will be released later this year.

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