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  Farewell Amor Reunited And It Feels So Bad
Year: 2020
Director: Ekwa Msangi
Stars: Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine, Zainab Jah, Jayme Lawson, Joie Lee, Nana Mensah, Marcus Scribner, Khalilah Daye, Dylan Flashner, Amy Hohn, Majah Hype, Imani Lewis, Kristen Maxwell, Joel Michaely, Chrisanthos Petsilas, Rayshawn Richardson, Terrence Shingler
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Walter (Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine) hasn't seen his wife and daughter for a whole seventeen years, and that is because he left them behind in Angola after the civil war made it difficult for him to stay - but they could not attain immigration papers as he did, so were unable to follow him to New York City, where he has spent the last near-two decades working as a taxi driver. But now, the wife Esther (Zainab Jah) and daughter Sylvia (Jayme Lawson) have been granted admittance to the United States, and with a mixture of trepidation and excitement, he meets them at the airport. Certainly Esther is pleased to see him again, though Sylvia is more wary, and the fact he is welcoming them to a cramped apartment indicates their circumstances could be better...

The immigration experience was what concerned writer and director Ekwa Msangi, and she drew her storyline from a real set of circumstances that had happened to an uncle of hers: he was allowed to move to America from Tanzania, but her aunt and cousin were not, effectively breaking up the family. She could have turned this into a tale of heartstring-tugging woe, but while it eventually was undeniably moving, she was more practical than that despite the way she was keen to tie up every loose end she was able to. Yet there was a strong theme here that would resonate not only with immigrants, but with anyone who has felt the discomfort of the outsider, of being other, in that it concerned itself with what was actually desired by any reasonable newcomer.

That being a need for acceptance, so that while this yarn was not focusing itself with what happens when the immigrant is rejected by their new home, which as we know can go horribly wrong, it was not shy about representing the experience of how alien you can feel, even after seventeen years in the fresh location, as Walter does. There was tension in his relationship with Esther, not solely because they have been apart for so long, but because he has had to break it off with his girlfriend (Nana Mensah) because obviously his wife would never understand this arrangement. The girlfriend is resentful, and the wife begins to suspect Walter was not as celibate as she was in all their time away, which leads her to double down on her religious faith in what could have been material for a grim drama.

Indeed, you are worried throughout that there is, if not tragedy, then real heartache to be suffered before the film concludes, as the religious aspect begins to dominate; the film was divided into three sections, each concentrating on the three separate family members and giving their personalities room to breathe. This additional insight sees Sylvia pursue a love of dance, gearing up for a contest that she knows her mother would deeply disapprove of, while Walter desperately misses his girlfriend (somewhat creepily, he stashes her bedsheets in a bag in his cupboard so he can sniff them in secret). But it is Esther's faith that has the power not to unite them, but tear them apart, as she keeps money they really need to send back to the church in Africa, mistakenly believing she can buy God's love with generosity when she's damaging her links to her husband and child with her fundamentalism, where she would be better to show love and, yes, acceptance to them instead. A sweet narrative in conclusion, and with excellent performances across the board (Lawson seemingly headed for bigger things, for instance), it was a small film, but worthwhile. Music by Osei Essed.

[Click here to watch on MUBI.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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