Blogs » FLIX! » Review: HALF OF A YELLOW SUN (2014) the Nigerian civil war is the backdrop for this romantic drama filled with great performances

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HALF OF A YELLOW SUN (2014) Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton, Anika Noni Rose, Joseph Mawle, John Boyega, Onyeka Onwenu. Directed by Biyi Bandele

Based on the bestselling epic novel by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and adapted by writer-director Biyi Bandele, Half Of A Yellow Sun is a romantic historical drama that takes place before and during the Nigerian civil war which lasted from 1967-1970.

The film opens in 1960 just as Nigeria has won it's independence from British rule. Twin sisters Olanna (Thandie Newton) and Kainene (Anika Noni Rose) are socialite daughters of the ruling class, beautiful, well educated, and wealthy. They have just returned to Lagos after studying abroad and both head strong women have plans for their future. Kainene plans to move from Lagos to take over her father's business overseeing the cement factory, bottling company, saw mills, and freight couriers, while Olanna just took a job as a college lecturer in the sociology department to be closer to her professor boyfriend Odenigbo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), whom her sister has nicknamed "the revolutionary".

The first part of the film concentrates on the romance between Olanna and Odenigbo which hits a snag when Odenigbo's mother comes to stay with the couple and accuses Olanna of being a witch who put a spell on her son. Meanwhile Kainene begins to have an affair with Richard (Joseph Mawle), a married British writer. Betrayals take place and at times the film takes on a soap opera feel as tensions mount and the drama escalates.

When the Nigerian-Biafran war begins the film takes on a totally different atmosphere as political conflicts and military coups force our protagonists to flee their homes and head for safer surroundings. Director Biyi Bandele uses old newsreel footage interspersed with scenes of violence to form a timeline of events as the crisis progresses. Soon those used to leading a life of privilege suddenly find themselves challenged with hardships and poverty as they come to terms with their new lives.

The performances in the film are exceptional, especially Thandie Newton and Chiwetel Ejiofor and the cinematography is at times striking. It's hard to adapt such an epic novel as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's especially with a running time under 2 hours, it could have been made into a mini-series, but the story is told really well even though history is sometimes brushed to the side to make a little more room for romantic turmoil over political.

(3 stars)

Now playing at the Sundance Cinema (Houston)