DVD Review: Half of a Yellow Sun

STUDIO: Monterey | DIRECTOR: Biyi Bandele | CAST: Anika Noni Rose, Thandie Newton, Joseph Mawle, Chiwetel Ejiofor
DVD RELEASE DATE: 7/29/2014 | PRICE: DVD $26.95
BONUSES: B-roll footage, featurette, soundbites from producer and cast
SPECS: R | 113 min. | Drama romance | 1.85:1 widescreen | stereo

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio  | Video  | Overall

 

Based on the 2006 novel by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and set in Nigeria during the Biafran War of the late 1960s, Half of a Yellow Sun tells the story of twin sisters Olanna (Thandie Newton, Vanishing on 7th Street) and Kainene (Anika Noni Rose, The Princess and The Frog). (To help with historical perspective, archival news footage is interspersed throughout the film.) The sisters are close, and have similar political ideas. However, their lives follow different paths due to their romantic relationships: Kainene loves Richard (Joseph Mawle) a white British man, and Olanna loves Odenigbo (Oscar-nominated Chiwetel Ejiofor of 12 Years a Slave), her “revolutionary professor.” These two sisters persevere and survive in spite of the turmoil around them.

Half of a Yellow Sun movie scene

Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton celebrate in Half of a Yellow Sun.

Adapted for the screen and directed by first-time feature filmmaker Biyi Bandele, the film starts off slowly, delving into soap opera territory, but as the civil war directly impacts the characters, the movie becomes more riveting. The story is revolves around Olanna and Odenigbo. The actors give strong performances during the intense moments, especially the scene in which they must run from their home because their village is being bombed. Odenigbo’s mother (Onyeka Onwenu) is a highlight in the film. While her character is portrayed as judgmental and nasty to Olanna, and slightly clichéd, her motives can be understood. She’s the relatively light and humorous spot in an otherwise dark tale, making her loss even more deeply felt when she becomes a victim of the war. I also liked Ugwu (John Boyega), the houseboy who becomes the invisible observer of the household for the audience. His character is relatable, because he is the conscience of the movie.

Half of a Yellow Sun was filmed on location in Nigeria and the scenery and sets reflect that admirably. It’s also well-cast, with strong actors in the lead roles and a number of African actors lending key support in the secondary roles.

Half of a Yellow Sun is available directly from Monterey Media (http://www.montereymedia.com/halfofayellowsun/).

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About Jenna

Jenna Miller studied theater and is a huge film buff. She has been regaling her family with her reviews since elementary school.